Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
by Charles Dickens.
A Chancery judge once had the kindness to inform me, as one of a
company of some hundred and fifty men and women not labouring under
any suspicions of lunacy, that the Court of Chancery, though the
shining subject of much popular prejudice (at which point I thought
the judge's eye had a cast in my direction), was almost immaculate.
There had been, he admitted, a trivial blemish or so in its rate of
progress, but this was exaggerated and had been entirely owing to
the "parsimony of the public," which guilty public, it appeared,
had been until lately bent in the most determined manner on by no
means enlarging the number of Chancery judges appointed--I believe
by Richard the Second, but any other king will do as well.
This seemed to me too profound a joke to be inserted in the body of
this book or I should have restored it to Conversation Kenge or to
Mr. Vholes, with one or other of whom I think it must have
originated. In such mouths I might have coupled it with an apt
quotation from one of Shakespeare's sonnets:
"My nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand:
Pity me, then, and wish I were renewed!"
But as it is wholesome that the parsimonious public should know
what has been doing, and still is doing, in this connexion, I
mention here that everything set forth in these pages concerning
the Court of Chancery is substantially true, and within the truth.
The case of Gridley is in no essential altered from one of actual
occurrence, made public by a disinterested person who was
professionally acquainted with the whole of the monstrous wrong
from beginning to end. At the present moment (August, 1853) there
is a suit before the court which was commenced nearly twenty years
ago, in which from thirty to forty counsel have been known to
appear at one time, in which costs have been incurred to the amount
of seventy thousand pounds, which is A FRIENDLY SUIT, and which is
(I am assured) no nearer to its termination now than when it was
begun. There is another well-known suit in Chancery, not yet
decided, which was commenced before the close of the last century
and in which more than double the amount of seventy thousand pounds
has been swallowed up in costs. If I wanted other authorities for
Jarndyce and Jarndyce, I could rain them on these pages, to the
shame of--a parsimonious public.
There is only one other point on which I offer a word of remark.
The possibility of what is called spontaneous combustion has been
denied since the death of Mr. Krook; and my good friend Mr. Lewes
(quite mistaken, as he soon found, in supposing the thing to have
been abandoned by all authorities) published some ingenious letters
to me at the time when that event was chronicled, arguing that
spontaneous combustion could not possibly be. I have no need to
observe that I do not wilfully or negligently mislead my readers
and that before I wrote that description I took pains to
investigate the subject. There are about thirty cases on record,
of which the most famous, that of the Countess Cornelia de Baudi
Cesenate, was minutely investigated and described by Giuseppe
Bianchini, a prebendary of Verona, otherwise distinguished in
letters, who published an account of it at Verona in 1731, which he
afterwards republished at Rome. The appearances, beyond all
rational doubt, observed in that case are the appearances observed
in Mr. Krook's case. The next most famous instance happened at
Rheims six years earlier, and the historian in that case is Le Cat,
one of the most renowned surgeons produced by France. The subject
was a woman, whose husband was ignorantly convicted of having
murdered her; but on solemn appeal to a higher court, he was
acquitted because it was shown upon the evidence that she had died
the death of which this name of spontaneous combustion is given. I
do not think it necessary to add to these notable facts, and that
general reference to the authorities which will be found at page
30, vol. ii.,* the recorded opinions and experiences of
distinguished medical professors, French, English, and Scotch, in
more modern days, contenting myself with observing that I shall not
abandon the facts until there shall have been a considerable
spontaneous combustion of the testimony on which human occurrences
are usually received.
In Bleak House I have purposely dwelt upon the romantic side of
* Another case, very clearly described by a dentist, occurred at
the town of Columbus, in the United States of America, quite
recently. The subject was a German who kept a liquor-shop and was
an inveterate drunkard.
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor
sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As
much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from
the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a
Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine
lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots,
making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as
full-grown snowflakes--gone into mourning, one might imagine, for
the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses,
scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers,
jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill
temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of
thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding
since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits
to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points
tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.
Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits
and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the
tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and
dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights.
Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on
the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping
on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and
throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides
of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of
the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching
the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck.
Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a
nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a
balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.
Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much
as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by
husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours
before their time--as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard
and unwilling look.
The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the
muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction,
appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old
corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln's Inn
Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor
in his High Court of Chancery.
Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and
mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition
which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners,
holds this day in the sight of heaven and earth.
On such an afternoon, if ever, the Lord High Chancellor ought to be
sitting here--as here he is--with a foggy glory round his head,
softly fenced in with crimson cloth and curtains, addressed by a
large advocate with great whiskers, a little voice, and an
interminable brief, and outwardly directing his contemplation to
the lantern in the roof, where he can see nothing but fog. On such
an afternoon some score of members of the High Court of Chancery
bar ought to be--as here they are--mistily engaged in one of the
ten thousand stages of an endless cause, tripping one another up on
slippery precedents, groping knee-deep in technicalities, running
their goat-hair and horsehair warded heads against walls of words
and making a pretence of equity with serious faces, as players
might. On such an afternoon the various solicitors in the cause,
some two or three of whom have inherited it from their fathers, who
made a fortune by it, ought to be--as are they not?--ranged in a
line, in a long matted well (but you might look in vain for truth
at the bottom of it) between the registrar's red table and the silk
gowns, with bills, cross-bills, answers, rejoinders, injunctions,
affidavits, issues, references to masters, masters' reports,
mountains of costly nonsense, piled before them. Well may the
court be dim, with wasting candles here and there; well may the fog
hang heavy in it, as if it would never get out; well may the
stained-glass windows lose their colour and admit no light of day
into the place; well may the uninitiated from the streets, who peep
in through the glass panes in the door, be deterred from entrance
by its owlish aspect and by the drawl, languidly echoing to the
roof from the padded dais where the Lord High Chancellor looks into
the lantern that has no light in it and where the attendant wigs
are all stuck in a fog-bank! This is the Court of Chancery, which
has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire,
which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse and its dead in
every churchyard, which has its ruined suitor with his slipshod
heels and threadbare dress borrowing and begging through the round
of every man's acquaintance, which gives to monied might the means
abundantly of wearying out the right, which so exhausts finances,
patience, courage, hope, so overthrows the brain and breaks the
heart, that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners
who would not give--who does not often give--the warning, "Suffer
any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!"
Who happen to be in the Lord Chancellor's court this murky
afternoon besides the Lord Chancellor, the counsel in the cause,
two or three counsel who are never in any cause, and the well of
solicitors before mentioned? There is the registrar below the
judge, in wig and gown; and there are two or three maces, or petty-
bags, or privy purses, or whatever they may be, in legal court
suits. These are all yawning, for no crumb of amusement ever falls
from Jarndyce and Jarndyce (the cause in hand), which was squeezed
dry years upon years ago. The short-hand writers, the reporters of
the court, and the reporters of the newspapers invariably decamp
with the rest of the regulars when Jarndyce and Jarndyce comes on.
Their places are a blank. Standing on a seat at the side of the
hall, the better to peer into the curtained sanctuary, is a little
mad old woman in a squeezed bonnet who is always in court, from its
sitting to its rising, and always expecting some incomprehensible
judgment to be given in her favour. Some say she really is, or
was, a party to a suit, but no one knows for certain because no one
cares. She carries some small litter in a reticule which she calls
her documents, principally consisting of paper matches and dry
lavender. A sallow prisoner has come up, in custody, for the half-
dozenth time to make a personal application "to purge himself of
his contempt," which, being a solitary surviving executor who has
fallen into a state of conglomeration about accounts of which it is
not pretended that he had ever any knowledge, he is not at all
likely ever to do. In the meantime his prospects in life are
ended. Another ruined suitor, who periodically appears from
Shropshire and breaks out into efforts to address the Chancellor at
the close of the day's business and who can by no means be made to
understand that the Chancellor is legally ignorant of his existence
after making it desolate for a quarter of a century, plants himself
in a good place and keeps an eye on the judge, ready to call out
"My Lord!" in a voice of sonorous complaint on the instant of his
rising. A few lawyers' clerks and others who know this suitor by
sight linger on the chance of his furnishing some fun and
enlivening the dismal weather a little.
Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in
course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what
it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been
observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five
minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the
premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause;
innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old
people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously
found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without
knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds
with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised
a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled
has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away
into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers
and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and
gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed
into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left
upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his
brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce and
Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court,
Jarndyce and Jarndyce has passed into a joke. That is the only
good that has ever come of it. It has been death to many, but it
is a joke in the profession. Every master in Chancery has had a
reference out of it. Every Chancellor was "in it," for somebody or
other, when he was counsel at the bar. Good things have been said
about it by blue-nosed, bulbous-shoed old benchers in select port-
wine committee after dinner in hall. Articled clerks have been in
the habit of fleshing their legal wit upon it. The last Lord
Chancellor handled it neatly, when, correcting Mr. Blowers, the
eminent silk gown who said that such a thing might happen when the
sky rained potatoes, he observed, "or when we get through Jarndyce
and Jarndyce, Mr. Blowers"--a pleasantry that particularly tickled
the maces, bags, and purses.
How many people out of the suit Jarndyce and Jarndyce has stretched
forth its unwholesome hand to spoil and corrupt would be a very
wide question. From the master upon whose impaling files reams of
dusty warrants in Jarndyce and Jarndyce have grimly writhed into
many shapes, down to the copying-clerk in the Six Clerks' Office
who has copied his tens of thousands of Chancery folio-pages under
that eternal heading, no man's nature has been made better by it.
In trickery, evasion, procrastination, spoliation, botheration,
under false pretences of all sorts, there are influences that can
never come to good. The very solicitors' boys who have kept the
wretched suitors at bay, by protesting time out of mind that Mr.
Chizzle, Mizzle, or otherwise was particularly engaged and had
appointments until dinner, may have got an extra moral twist and
shuffle into themselves out of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The receiver
in the cause has acquired a goodly sum of money by it but has
acquired too a distrust of his own mother and a contempt for his
own kind. Chizzle, Mizzle, and otherwise have lapsed into a habit
of vaguely promising themselves that they will look into that
outstanding little matter and see what can be done for Drizzle--who
was not well used--when Jarndyce and Jarndyce shall be got out of
the office. Shirking and sharking in all their many varieties have
been sown broadcast by the ill-fated cause; and even those who have
contemplated its history from the outermost circle of such evil
have been insensibly tempted into a loose way of letting bad things
alone to take their own bad course, and a loose belief that if the
world go wrong it was in some off-hand manner never meant to go
Thus, in the midst of the mud and at the heart of the fog, sits the
Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.
"Mr. Tangle," says the Lord High Chancellor, latterly something
restless under the eloquence of that learned gentleman.
"Mlud," says Mr. Tangle. Mr. Tangle knows more of Jarndyce and
Jarndyce than anybody. He is famous for it--supposed never to have
read anything else since he left school.
"Have you nearly concluded your argument?"
"Mlud, no--variety of points--feel it my duty tsubmit--ludship," is
the reply that slides out of Mr. Tangle.
"Several members of the bar are still to be heard, I believe?" says
the Chancellor with a slight smile.
Eighteen of Mr. Tangle's learned friends, each armed with a little
summary of eighteen hundred sheets, bob up like eighteen hammers in
a pianoforte, make eighteen bows, and drop into their eighteen
places of obscurity.
"We will proceed with the hearing on Wednesday fortnight," says the
Chancellor. For the question at issue is only a question of costs,
a mere bud on the forest tree of the parent suit, and really will
come to a settlement one of these days.
The Chancellor rises; the bar rises; the prisoner is brought
forward in a hurry; the man from Shropshire cries, "My lord!"
Maces, bags, and purses indignantly proclaim silence and frown at
the man from Shropshire.
"In reference," proceeds the Chancellor, still on Jarndyce and
Jarndyce, "to the young girl--"
"Begludship's pardon--boy," says Mr. Tangle prematurely. "In
reference," proceeds the Chancellor with extra distinctness, "to
the young girl and boy, the two young people"--Mr. Tangle crushed--
"whom I directed to be in attendance to-day and who are now in my
private room, I will see them and satisfy myself as to the
expediency of making the order for their residing with their
Mr. Tangle on his legs again. "Begludship's pardon--dead."
"With their"--Chancellor looking through his double eye-glass at the
papers on his desk--"grandfather."
"Begludship's pardon--victim of rash action--brains."
Suddenly a very little counsel with a terrific bass voice arises,
fully inflated, in the back settlements of the fog, and says, "Will
your lordship allow me? I appear for him. He is a cousin, several
times removed. I am not at the moment prepared to inform the court
in what exact remove he is a cousin, but he IS a cousin."
Leaving this address (delivered like a sepulchral message) ringing
in the rafters of the roof, the very little counsel drops, and the
fog knows him no more. Everybody looks for him. Nobody can see
"I will speak with both the young people," says the Chancellor
anew, "and satisfy myself on the subject of their residing with
their cousin. I will mention the matter to-morrow morning when I
take my seat."
The Chancellor is about to bow to the bar when the prisoner is
presented. Nothing can possibly come of the prisoner's
conglomeration but his being sent back to prison, which is soon
done. The man from Shropshire ventures another remonstrative "My
lord!" but the Chancellor, being aware of him, has dexterously
vanished. Everybody else quickly vanishes too. A battery of blue
bags is loaded with heavy charges of papers and carried off by
clerks; the little mad old woman marches off with her documents;
the empty court is locked up. If all the injustice it has
committed and all the misery it has caused could only be locked up
with it, and the whole burnt away in a great funeral pyre--why so
much the better for other parties than the parties in Jarndyce and
It is but a glimpse of the world of fashion that we want on this
same miry afternoon. It is not so unlike the Court of Chancery but
that we may pass from the one scene to the other, as the crow
flies. Both the world of fashion and the Court of Chancery are
things of precedent and usage: oversleeping Rip Van Winkles who
have played at strange games through a deal of thundery weather;
sleeping beauties whom the knight will wake one day, when all the
stopped spits in the kitchen shall begin to turn prodigiously!
It is not a large world. Relatively even to this world of ours,
which has its limits too (as your Highness shall find when you have
made the tour of it and are come to the brink of the void beyond),
it is a very little speck. There is much good in it; there are
many good and true people in it; it has its appointed place. But
the evil of it is that it is a world wrapped up in too much
jeweller's cotton and fine wool, and cannot hear the rushing of the
larger worlds, and cannot see them as they circle round the sun.
It is a deadened world, and its growth is sometimes unhealthy for
want of air.
My Lady Dedlock has returned to her house in town for a few days
previous to her departure for Paris, where her ladyship intends to
stay some weeks, after which her movements are uncertain. The
fashionable intelligence says so for the comfort of the Parisians,
and it knows all fashionable things. To know things otherwise were
to be unfashionable. My Lady Dedlock has been down at what she
calls, in familiar conversation, her "place" in Lincolnshire. The
waters are out in Lincolnshire. An arch of the bridge in the park
has been sapped and sopped away. The adjacent low-lying ground for
half a mile in breadth is a stagnant river with melancholy trees
for islands in it and a surface punctured all over, all day long,
with falling rain. My Lady Dedlock's place has been extremely
dreary. The weather for many a day and night has been so wet that
the trees seem wet through, and the soft loppings and prunings of
the woodman's axe can make no crash or crackle as they fall. The
deer, looking soaked, leave quagmires where they pass. The shot of
a rifle loses its sharpness in the moist air, and its smoke moves
in a tardy little cloud towards the green rise, coppice-topped,
that makes a background for the falling rain. The view from my
Lady Dedlock's own windows is alternately a lead-coloured view and
a view in Indian ink. The vases on the stone terrace in the
foreground catch the rain all day; and the heavy drops fall--drip,
drip, drip--upon the broad flagged pavement, called from old time
the Ghost's Walk, all night. On Sundays the little church in the
park is mouldy; the oaken pulpit breaks out into a cold sweat; and
there is a general smell and taste as of the ancient Dedlocks in
their graves. My Lady Dedlock (who is childless), looking out in
the early twilight from her boudoir at a keeper's lodge and seeing
the light of a fire upon the latticed panes, and smoke rising from
the chimney, and a child, chased by a woman, running out into the
rain to meet the shining figure of a wrapped-up man coming through
the gate, has been put quite out of temper. My Lady Dedlock says
she has been "bored to death."
Therefore my Lady Dedlock has come away from the place in
Lincolnshire and has left it to the rain, and the crows, and the
rabbits, and the deer, and the partridges and pheasants. The
pictures of the Dedlocks past and gone have seemed to vanish into
the damp walls in mere lowness of spirits, as the housekeeper has
passed along the old rooms shutting up the shutters. And when they
will next come forth again, the fashionable intelligence--which,
like the fiend, is omniscient of the past and present, but not the
future--cannot yet undertake to say.
Sir Leicester Dedlock is only a baronet, but there is no mightier
baronet than he. His family is as old as the hills, and infinitely
more respectable. He has a general opinion that the world might
get on without hills but would be done up without Dedlocks. He
would on the whole admit nature to be a good idea (a little low,
perhaps, when not enclosed with a park-fence), but an idea
dependent for its execution on your great county families. He is a
gentleman of strict conscience, disdainful of all littleness and
meanness and ready on the shortest notice to die any death you may
please to mention rather than give occasion for the least
impeachment of his integrity. He is an honourable, obstinate,
truthful, high-spirited, intensely prejudiced, perfectly
Sir Leicester is twenty years, full measure, older than my Lady.
He will never see sixty-five again, nor perhaps sixty-six, nor yet
sixty-seven. He has a twist of the gout now and then and walks a
little stiffly. He is of a worthy presence, with his light-grey
hair and whiskers, his fine shirt-frill, his pure-white waistcoat,
and his blue coat with bright buttons always buttoned. He is
ceremonious, stately, most polite on every occasion to my Lady, and
holds her personal attractions in the highest estimation. His
gallantry to my Lady, which has never changed since he courted her,
is the one little touch of romantic fancy in him.
Indeed, he married her for love. A whisper still goes about that
she had not even family; howbeit, Sir Leicester had so much family
that perhaps he had enough and could dispense with any more. But
she had beauty, pride, ambition, insolent resolve, and sense enough
to portion out a legion of fine ladies. Wealth and station, added
to these, soon floated her upward, and for years now my Lady
Dedlock has been at the centre of the fashionable intelligence and
at the top of the fashionable tree.
How Alexander wept when he had no more worlds to conquer, everybody
knows--or has some reason to know by this time, the matter having
been rather frequently mentioned. My Lady Dedlock, having
conquered HER world, fell not into the melting, but rather into the
freezing, mood. An exhausted composure, a worn-out placidity, an
equanimity of fatigue not to be ruffled by interest or satisfaction,
are the trophies of her victory. She is perfectly well-bred.
If she could be translated to heaven to-morrow, she might be
expected to ascend without any rapture.
She has beauty still, and if it be not in its heyday, it is not yet
in its autumn. She has a fine face--originally of a character that
would be rather called very pretty than handsome, but improved into
classicality by the acquired expression of her fashionable state.
Her figure is elegant and has the effect of being tall. Not that
she is so, but that "the most is made," as the Honourable Bob
Stables has frequently asserted upon oath, "of all her points."
The same authority observes that she is perfectly got up and
remarks in commendation of her hair especially that she is the
best-groomed woman in the whole stud.
With all her perfections on her head, my Lady Dedlock has come up
from her place in Lincolnshire (hotly pursued by the fashionable
intelligence) to pass a few days at her house in town previous to
her departure for Paris, where her ladyship intends to stay some
weeks, after which her movements are uncertain. And at her house
in town, upon this muddy, murky afternoon, presents himself an old-
fashioned old gentleman, attorney-at-law and eke solicitor of the
High Court of Chancery, who has the honour of acting as legal
adviser of the Dedlocks and has as many cast-iron boxes in his
office with that name outside as if the present baronet were the
coin of the conjuror's trick and were constantly being juggled
through the whole set. Across the hall, and up the stairs, and
along the passages, and through the rooms, which are very brilliant
in the season and very dismal out of it--fairy-land to visit, but a
desert to live in--the old gentleman is conducted by a Mercury in
powder to my Lady's presence.
The old gentleman is rusty to look at, but is reputed to have made
good thrift out of aristocratic marriage settlements and
aristocratic wills, and to be very rich. He is surrounded by a
mysterious halo of family confidences, of which he is known to be
the silent depository. There are noble mausoleums rooted for
centuries in retired glades of parks among the growing timber and
the fern, which perhaps hold fewer noble secrets than walk abroad
among men, shut up in the breast of Mr. Tulkinghorn. He is of what
is called the old school--a phrase generally meaning any school
that seems never to have been young--and wears knee-breeches tied
with ribbons, and gaiters or stockings. One peculiarity of his
black clothes and of his black stockings, be they silk or worsted,
is that they never shine. Mute, close, irresponsive to any
glancing light, his dress is like himself. He never converses when
not professionaly consulted. He is found sometimes, speechless but
quite at home, at corners of dinner-tables in great country houses
and near doors of drawing-rooms, concerning which the fashionable
intelligence is eloquent, where everybody knows him and where half
the Peerage stops to say "How do you do, Mr. Tulkinghorn?" He
receives these salutations with gravity and buries them along with
the rest of his knowledge.
Sir Leicester Dedlock is with my Lady and is happy to see Mr.
Tulkinghorn. There is an air of prescription about him which is
always agreeable to Sir Leicester; he receives it as a kind of
tribute. He likes Mr. Tulkinghorn's dress; there is a kind of
tribute in that too. It is eminently respectable, and likewise, in
a general way, retainer-like. It expresses, as it were, the
steward of the legal mysteries, the butler of the legal cellar, of
Has Mr. Tulkinghorn any idea of this himself? It may be so, or it
may not, but there is this remarkable circumstance to be noted in
everything associated with my Lady Dedlock as one of a class--as
one of the leaders and representatives of her little world. She
supposes herself to be an inscrutable Being, quite out of the reach
and ken of ordinary mortals--seeing herself in her glass, where
indeed she looks so. Yet every dim little star revolving about
her, from her maid to the manager of the Italian Opera, knows her
weaknesses, prejudices, follies, haughtinesses, and caprices and
lives upon as accurate a calculation and as nice a measure of her
moral nature as her dressmaker takes of her physical proportions.
Is a new dress, a new custom, a new singer, a new dancer, a new
form of jewellery, a new dwarf or giant, a new chapel, a new
anything, to be set up? There are deferential people in a dozen
callings whom my Lady Dedlock suspects of nothing but prostration
before her, who can tell you how to manage her as if she were a
baby, who do nothing but nurse her all their lives, who, humbly
affecting to follow with profound subservience, lead her and her
whole troop after them; who, in hooking one, hook all and bear them
off as Lemuel Gulliver bore away the stately fleet of the majestic
Lilliput. "If you want to address our people, sir," say Blaze and
Sparkle, the jewellers--meaning by our people Lady Dedlock and the
rest--"you must remember that you are not dealing with the general
public; you must hit our people in their weakest place, and their
weakest place is such a place." "To make this article go down,
gentlemen," say Sheen and Gloss, the mercers, to their friends the
manufacturers, "you must come to us, because we know where to have
the fashionable people, and we can make it fashionable." "If you
want to get this print upon the tables of my high connexion, sir,"
says Mr. Sladdery, the librarian, "or if you want to get this dwarf
or giant into the houses of my high connexion, sir, or if you want
to secure to this entertainment the patronage of my high connexion,
sir, you must leave it, if you please, to me, for I have been
accustomed to study the leaders of my high connexion, sir, and I
may tell you without vanity that I can turn them round my finger"--
in which Mr. Sladdery, who is an honest man, does not exaggerate at
Therefore, while Mr. Tulkinghorn may not know what is passing in
the Dedlock mind at present, it is very possible that he may.
"My Lady's cause has been again before the Chancellor, has it, Mr.
Tulkinghorn?" says Sir Leicester, giving him his hand.
"Yes. It has been on again to-day," Mr. Tulkinghorn replies,
making one of his quiet bows to my Lady, who is on a sofa near the
fire, shading her face with a hand-screen.
"It would be useless to ask," says my Lady with the dreariness of
the place in Lincolnshire still upon her, "whether anything has
"Nothing that YOU would call anything has been done to-day,"
replies Mr. Tulkinghorn.
"Nor ever will be," says my Lady.
Sir Leicester has no objection to an interminable Chancery suit.
It is a slow, expensive, British, constitutional kind of thing. To
be sure, he has not a vital interest in the suit in question, her
part in which was the only property my Lady brought him; and he has
a shadowy impression that for his name--the name of Dedlock--to be
in a cause, and not in the title of that cause, is a most
ridiculous accident. But he regards the Court of Chancery, even if
it should involve an occasional delay of justice and a trifling
amount of confusion, as a something devised in conjunction with a
variety of other somethings by the perfection of human wisdom for
the eternal settlement (humanly speaking) of everything. And he is
upon the whole of a fixed opinion that to give the sanction of his
countenance to any complaints respecting it would be to encourage
some person in the lower classes to rise up somewhere--like Wat
"As a few fresh affidavits have been put upon the file," says Mr.
Tulkinghorn, "and as they are short, and as I proceed upon the
troublesome principle of begging leave to possess my clients with
any new proceedings in a cause"--cautious man Mr. Tulkinghorn,
taking no more responsibility than necessary--"and further, as I
see you are going to Paris, I have brought them in my pocket."
(Sir Leicester was going to Paris too, by the by, but the delight
of the fashionable intelligence was in his Lady.)
Mr. Tulkinghorn takes out his papers, asks permission to place them
on a golden talisman of a table at my Lady's elbow, puts on his
spectacles, and begins to read by the light of a shaded lamp.
"'In Chancery. Between John Jarndyce--'"
My Lady interrupts, requesting him to miss as many of the formal
horrors as he can.
Mr. Tulkinghorn glances over his spectacles and begins again lower
down. My Lady carelessly and scornfully abstracts her attention.
Sir Leicester in a great chair looks at the file and appears to
have a stately liking for the legal repetitions and prolixities as
ranging among the national bulwarks. It happens that the fire is
hot where my Lady sits and that the hand-screen is more beautiful
than useful, being priceless but small. My Lady, changing her
position, sees the papers on the table--looks at them nearer--looks
at them nearer still--asks impulsively, "Who copied that?"
Mr. Tulkinghorn stops short, surprised by my Lady's animation and
her unusual tone.
"Is it what you people call law-hand?" she asks, looking full at
him in her careless way again and toying with her screen.
"Not quite. Probably"--Mr. Tulkinghorn examines it as he speaks--
"the legal character which it has was acquired after the original
hand was formed. Why do you ask?"
"Anything to vary this detestable monotony. Oh, go on, do!"
Mr. Tulkinghorn reads again. The heat is greater; my Lady screens
her face. Sir Leicester dozes, starts up suddenly, and cries, "Eh?
What do you say?"
"I say I am afraid," says Mr. Tulkinghorn, who had risen hastily,
"that Lady Dedlock is ill."
"Faint," my Lady murmurs with white lips, "only that; but it is
like the faintness of death. Don't speak to me. Ring, and take me
to my room!"
Mr. Tulkinghorn retires into another chamber; bells ring, feet
shuffle and patter, silence ensues. Mercury at last begs Mr.
Tulkinghorn to return.
"Better now," quoth Sir Leicester, motioning the lawyer to sit down
and read to him alone. "I have been quite alarmed. I never knew
my Lady swoon before. But the weather is extremely trying, and she
really has been bored to death down at our place in Lincolnshire."
I have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion
of these pages, for I know I am not clever. I always knew that. I
can remember, when I was a very little girl indeed, I used to say
to my doll when we were alone together, "Now, Dolly, I am not
clever, you know very well, and you must be patient with me, like a
dear!" And so she used to sit propped up in a great arm-chair,
with her beautiful complexion and rosy lips, staring at me--or not
so much at me, I think, as at nothing--while I busily stitched away
and told her every one of my secrets.
My dear old doll! I was such a shy little thing that I seldom
dared to open my lips, and never dared to open my heart, to anybody
else. It almost makes me cry to think what a relief it used to be
to me when I came home from school of a day to run upstairs to my
room and say, "Oh, you dear faithful Dolly, I knew you would be
expecting me!" and then to sit down on the floor, leaning on the
elbow of her great chair, and tell her all I had noticed since we
parted. I had always rather a noticing way--not a quick way, oh,
no!--a silent way of noticing what passed before me and thinking I
should like to understand it better. I have not by any means a
quick understanding. When I love a person very tenderly indeed, it
seems to brighten. But even that may be my vanity.
I was brought up, from my earliest remembrance--like some of the
princesses in the fairy stories, only I was not charming--by my
godmother. At least, I only knew her as such. She was a good,
good woman! She went to church three times every Sunday, and to
morning prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and to lectures whenever
there were lectures; and never missed. She was handsome; and if
she had ever smiled, would have been (I used to think) like an
angel--but she never smiled. She was always grave and strict. She
was so very good herself, I thought, that the badness of other
people made her frown all her life. I felt so different from her,
even making every allowance for the differences between a child and
a woman; I felt so poor, so trifling, and so far off that I never
could be unrestrained with her--no, could never even love her as I
wished. It made me very sorry to consider how good she was and how
unworthy of her I was, and I used ardently to hope that I might
have a better heart; and I talked it over very often with the dear
old doll, but I never loved my godmother as I ought to have loved
her and as I felt I must have loved her if I had been a better
This made me, I dare say, more timid and retiring than I naturally
was and cast me upon Dolly as the only friend with whom I felt at
ease. But something happened when I was still quite a little thing
that helped it very much.
I had never heard my mama spoken of. I had never heard of my papa
either, but I felt more interested about my mama. I had never worn
a black frock, that I could recollect. I had never been shown my
mama's grave. I had never been told where it was. Yet I had never
been taught to pray for any relation but my godmother. I had more
than once approached this subject of my thoughts with Mrs. Rachael,
our only servant, who took my light away when I was in bed (another
very good woman, but austere to me), and she had only said,
"Esther, good night!" and gone away and left me.
Although there were seven girls at the neighbouring school where I
was a day boarder, and although they called me little Esther
Summerson, I knew none of them at home. All of them were older
than I, to be sure (I was the youngest there by a good deal), but
there seemed to be some other separation between us besides that,
and besides their being far more clever than I was and knowing much
more than I did. One of them in the first week of my going to the
school (I remember it very well) invited me home to a little party,
to my great joy. But my godmother wrote a stiff letter declining
for me, and I never went. I never went out at all.
It was my birthday. There were holidays at school on other
birthdays--none on mine. There were rejoicings at home on other
birthdays, as I knew from what I heard the girls relate to one
another--there were none on mine. My birthday was the most
melancholy day at home in the whole year.
I have mentioned that unless my vanity should deceive me (as I know
it may, for I may be very vain without suspecting it, though indeed
I don't), my comprehension is quickened when my affection is. My
disposition is very affectionate, and perhaps I might still feel
such a wound if such a wound could be received more than once with
the quickness of that birthday.
Dinner was over, and my godmother and I were sitting at the table
before the fire. The clock ticked, the fire clicked; not another
sound had been heard in the room or in the house for I don't know
how long. I happened to look timidly up from my stitching, across
the table at my godmother, and I saw in her face, looking gloomily
at me, "It would have been far better, little Esther, that you had
had no birthday, that you had never been born!"
I broke out crying and sobbing, and I said, "Oh, dear godmother,
tell me, pray do tell me, did Mama die on my birthday?"
"No," she returned. "Ask me no more, child!"
"Oh, do pray tell me something of her. Do now, at last, dear
godmother, if you please! What did I do to her? How did I lose
her? Why am I so different from other children, and why is it my
fault, dear godmother? No, no, no, don't go away. Oh, speak to
I was in a kind of fright beyond my grief, and I caught hold of her
dress and was kneeling to her. She had been saying all the while,
"Let me go!" But now she stood still.
Her darkened face had such power over me that it stopped me in the
midst of my vehemence. I put up my trembling little hand to clasp
hers or to beg her pardon with what earnestness I might, but
withdrew it as she looked at me, and laid it on my fluttering
heart. She raised me, sat in her chair, and standing me before
her, said slowly in a cold, low voice--I see her knitted brow and
pointed finger--"Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you
were hers. The time will come--and soon enough--when you will
understand this better and will feel it too, as no one save a woman
can. I have forgiven her"--but her face did not relent--"the wrong
she did to me, and I say no more of it, though it was greater than
you will ever know--than any one will ever know but I, the
sufferer. For yourself, unfortunate girl, orphaned and degraded
from the first of these evil anniversaries, pray daily that the
sins of others be not visited upon your head, according to what is
written. Forget your mother and leave all other people to forget
her who will do her unhappy child that greatest kindness. Now,
She checked me, however, as I was about to depart from her--so
frozen as I was!--and added this, "Submission, self-denial,
diligent work, are the preparations for a life begun with such a
shadow on it. You are different from other children, Esther,
because you were not born, like them, in common sinfulness and
wrath. You are set apart."
I went up to my room, and crept to bed, and laid my doll's cheek
against mine wet with tears, and holding that solitary friend upon
my bosom, cried myself to sleep. Imperfect as my understanding of
my sorrow was, I knew that I had brought no joy at any time to
anybody's heart and that I was to no one upon earth what Dolly was
Dear, dear, to think how much time we passed alone together
afterwards, and how often I repeated to the doll the story of my
birthday and confided to her that I would try as hard as ever I
could to repair the fault I had been born with (of which I
confessedly felt guilty and yet innocent) and would strive as I
grew up to be industrious, contented, and kind-hearted and to do
some good to some one, and win some love to myself if I could. I
hope it is not self-indulgent to shed these tears as I think of it.
I am very thankful, I am very cheerful, but I cannot quite help
their coming to my eyes.
There! I have wiped them away now and can go on again properly.
I felt the distance between my godmother and myself so much more
after the birthday, and felt so sensible of filling a place in her
house which ought to have been empty, that I found her more
difficult of approach, though I was fervently grateful to her in my
heart, than ever. I felt in the same way towards my school
companions; I felt in the same way towards Mrs. Rachael, who was a
widow; and oh, towards her daughter, of whom she was proud, who
came to see her once a fortnight! I was very retired and quiet,
and tried to be very diligent.
One sunny afternoon when I had come home from school with my books
and portfolio, watching my long shadow at my side, and as I was
gliding upstairs to my room as usual, my godmother looked out of
the parlour-door and called me back. Sitting with her, I found--
which was very unusual indeed--a stranger. A portly, important-
looking gentleman, dressed all in black, with a white cravat, large
gold watch seals, a pair of gold eye-glasses, and a large seal-ring
upon his little finger.
"This," said my godmother in an undertone, "is the child." Then
she said in her naturally stern way of speaking, "This is Esther,
The gentleman put up his eye-glasses to look at me and said, "Come
here, my dear!" He shook hands with me and asked me to take off my
bonnet, looking at me all the while. When I had complied, he said,
"Ah!" and afterwards "Yes!" And then, taking off his eye-glasses
and folding them in a red case, and leaning back in his arm-chair,
turning the case about in his two hands, he gave my godmother a
nod. Upon that, my godmother said, "You may go upstairs, Esther!"
And I made him my curtsy and left him.
It must have been two years afterwards, and I was almost fourteen,
when one dreadful night my godmother and I sat at the fireside. I
was reading aloud, and she was listening. I had come down at nine
o'clock as I always did to read the Bible to her, and was reading
from St. John how our Saviour stooped down, writing with his finger
in the dust, when they brought the sinful woman to him.
"So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself and said
unto them, 'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a
stone at her!'"
I was stopped by my godmother's rising, putting her hand to her
head, and crying out in an awful voice from quite another part of
the book, "'Watch ye, therefore, lest coming suddenly he find you
sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!'"
In an instant, while she stood before me repeating these words, she
fell down on the floor. I had no need to cry out; her voice had
sounded through the house and been heard in the street.
She was laid upon her bed. For more than a week she lay there,
little altered outwardly, with her old handsome resolute frown that
I so well knew carved upon her face. Many and many a time, in the
day and in the night, with my head upon the pillow by her that my
whispers might be plainer to her, I kissed her, thanked her, prayed
for her, asked her for her blessing and forgiveness, entreated her
to give me the least sign that she knew or heard me. No, no, no.
Her face was immovable. To the very last, and even afterwards, her
frown remained unsoftened.
On the day after my poor good godmother was buried, the gentleman
in black with the white neckcloth reappeared. I was sent for by
Mrs. Rachael, and found him in the same place, as if he had never
"My name is Kenge," he said; "you may remember it, my child; Kenge
and Carboy, Lincoln's Inn."
I replied that I remembered to have seen him once before.
"Pray be seated--here near me. Don't distress yourself; it's of no
use. Mrs. Rachael, I needn't inform you who were acquainted with
the late Miss Barbary's affairs, that her means die with her and
that this young lady, now her aunt is dead--"
"My aunt, sir!"
"It is really of no use carrying on a deception when no object is
to be gained by it," said Mr. Kenge smoothly, "Aunt in fact, though
not in law. Don't distress yourself! Don't weep! Don't tremble!
Mrs. Rachael, our young friend has no doubt heard of--the--a--
Jarndyce and Jarndyce."
"Never," said Mrs. Rachael.
"Is it possible," pursued Mr. Kenge, putting up his eye-glasses,
"that our young friend--I BEG you won't distress yourself!--never
heard of Jarndyce and Jarndyce!"
I shook my head, wondering even what it was.
"Not of Jarndyce and Jarndyce?" said Mr. Kenge, looking over his
glasses at me and softly turning the case about and about as if he
were petting something. "Not of one of the greatest Chancery suits
known? Not of Jarndyce and Jarndyce--the--a--in itself a monument
of Chancery practice. In which (I would say) every difficulty,
every contingency, every masterly fiction, every form of procedure
known in that court, is represented over and over again? It is a
cause that could not exist out of this free and great country. I
should say that the aggregate of costs in Jarndyce and Jarndyce,
Mrs. Rachael"--I was afraid he addressed himself to her because I
appeared inattentive"--amounts at the present hour to from SIX-ty
to SEVEN-ty THOUSAND POUNDS!" said Mr. Kenge, leaning back in his
I felt very ignorant, but what could I do? I was so entirely
unacquainted with the subject that I understood nothing about it
"And she really never heard of the cause!" said Mr. Kenge.
"Miss Barbary, sir," returned Mrs. Rachael, "who is now among the
"I hope so, I am sure," said Mr. Kenge politely.
"--Wished Esther only to know what would be serviceable to her.
And she knows, from any teaching she has had here, nothing more."
"Well!" said Mr. Kenge. "Upon the whole, very proper. Now to the
point," addressing me. "Miss Barbary, your sole relation (in fact
that is, for I am bound to observe that in law you had none) being
deceased and it naturally not being to be expected that Mrs.
"Oh, dear no!" said Mrs. Rachael quickly.
"Quite so," assented Mr. Kenge; "--that Mrs. Rachael should charge
herself with your maintenance and support (I beg you won't distress
yourself), you are in a position to receive the renewal of an offer
which I was instructed to make to Miss Barbary some two years ago
and which, though rejected then, was understood to be renewable
under the lamentable circumstances that have since occurred. Now,
if I avow that I represent, in Jarndyce and Jarndyce and otherwise,
a highly humane, but at the same time singular, man, shall I
compromise myself by any stretch of my professional caution?" said
Mr. Kenge, leaning back in his chair again and looking calmly at us
He appeared to enjoy beyond everything the sound of his own voice.
I couldn't wonder at that, for it was mellow and full and gave
great importance to every word he uttered. He listened to himself
with obvious satisfaction and sometimes gently beat time to his own
music with his head or rounded a sentence with his hand. I was
very much impressed by him--even then, before I knew that he formed
himself on the model of a great lord who was his client and that he
was generally called Conversation Kenge.
"Mr. Jarndyce," he pursued, "being aware of the--I would say,
desolate--position of our young friend, offers to place her at a
first-rate establishment where her education shall be completed,
where her comfort shall be secured, where her reasonable wants
shall be anticipated, where she shall be eminently qualified to
discharge her duty in that station of life unto which it has
pleased--shall I say Providence?--to call her."
My heart was filled so full, both by what he said and by his
affecting manner of saying it, that I was not able to speak, though
"Mr. Jarndyce," he went on, "makes no condition beyond expressing
his expectation that our young friend will not at any time remove
herself from the establishment in question without his knowledge
and concurrence. That she will faithfully apply herself to the
acquisition of those accomplishments, upon the exercise of which
she will be ultimately dependent. That she will tread in the paths
of virtue and honour, and--the--a--so forth."
I was still less able to speak than before.
"Now, what does our young friend say?" proceeded Mr. Kenge. "Take
time, take time! I pause for her reply. But take time!"
What the destitute subject of such an offer tried to say, I need
not repeat. What she did say, I could more easily tell, if it were
worth the telling. What she felt, and will feel to her dying hour,
I could never relate.
This interview took place at Windsor, where I had passed (as far as
I knew) my whole life. On that day week, amply provided with all
necessaries, I left it, inside the stagecoach, for Reading.
Mrs. Rachael was too good to feel any emotion at parting, but I was
not so good, and wept bitterly. I thought that I ought to have
known her better after so many years and ought to have made myself
enough of a favourite with her to make her sorry then. When she
gave me one cold parting kiss upon my forehead, like a thaw-drop
from the stone porch--it was a very frosty day--I felt so miserable
and self-reproachful that I clung to her and told her it was my
fault, I knew, that she could say good-bye so easily!
"No, Esther!" she returned. "It is your misfortune!"
The coach was at the little lawn-gate--we had not come out until we
heard the wheels--and thus I left her, with a sorrowful heart. She
went in before my boxes were lifted to the coach-roof and shut the
door. As long as I could see the house, I looked back at it from
the window through my tears. My godmother had left Mrs. Rachael
all the little property she possessed; and there was to be a sale;
and an old hearth-rug with roses on it, which always seemed to me
the first thing in the world I had ever seen, was hanging outside
in the frost and snow. A day or two before, I had wrapped the dear
old doll in her own shawl and quietly laid her--I am half ashamed
to tell it--in the garden-earth under the tree that shaded my old
window. I had no companion left but my bird, and him I carried
with me in his cage.
When the house was out of sight, I sat, with my bird-cage in the
straw at my feet, forward on the low seat to look out of the high
window, watching the frosty trees, that were like beautiful pieces
of spar, and the fields all smooth and white with last night's
snow, and the sun, so red but yielding so little heat, and the ice,
dark like metal where the skaters and sliders had brushed the snow
away. There was a gentleman in the coach who sat on the opposite
seat and looked very large in a quantity of wrappings, but he sat
gazing out of the other window and took no notice of me.
I thought of my dead godmother, of the night when I read to her, of
her frowning so fixedly and sternly in her bed, of the strange
place I was going to, of the people I should find there, and what
they would be like, and what they would say to me, when a voice in
the coach gave me a terrible start.
It said, "What the de-vil are you crying for?"
I was so frightened that I lost my voice and could only answer in a
whisper, "Me, sir?" For of course I knew it must have been the
gentleman in the quantity of wrappings, though he was still looking
out of his window.
"Yes, you," he said, turning round.
"I didn't know I was crying, sir," I faltered.
"But you are!" said the gentleman. "Look here!" He came quite
opposite to me from the other corner of the coach, brushed one of
his large furry cuffs across my eyes (but without hurting me), and
showed me that it was wet.
"There! Now you know you are," he said. "Don't you?"
"Yes, sir," I said.
"And what are you crying for?" said the gentleman, "Don't you want
to go there?"
"Where? Why, wherever you are going," said the gentleman.
"I am very glad to go there, sir," I answered.
"Well, then! Look glad!" said the gentleman.
I thought he was very strange, or at least that what I could see of
him was very strange, for he was wrapped up to the chin, and his
face was almost hidden in a fur cap with broad fur straps at the
side of his head fastened under his chin; but I was composed again,
and not afraid of him. So I told him that I thought I must have
been crying because of my godmother's death and because of Mrs.
Rachael's not being sorry to part with me.
"Confound Mrs. Rachael!" said the gentleman. "Let her fly away in
a high wind on a broomstick!"
I began to be really afraid of him now and looked at him with the
greatest astonishment. But I thought that he had pleasant eyes,
although he kept on muttering to himself in an angry manner and
calling Mrs. Rachael names.
After a little while he opened his outer wrapper, which appeared to
me large enough to wrap up the whole coach, and put his arm down
into a deep pocket in the side.
"Now, look here!" he said. "In this paper," which was nicely
folded, "is a piece of the best plum-cake that can be got for
money--sugar on the outside an inch thick, like fat on mutton
chops. Here's a little pie (a gem this is, both for size and
quality), made in France. And what do you suppose it's made of?
Livers of fat geese. There's a pie! Now let's see you eat 'em."
"Thank you, sir," I replied; "thank you very much indeed, but I
hope you won't be offended--they are too rich for me."
"Floored again!" said the gentleman, which I didn't at all
understand, and threw them both out of window.
He did not speak to me any more until he got out of the coach a
little way short of Reading, when he advised me to be a good girl
and to be studious, and shook hands with me. I must say I was
relieved by his departure. We left him at a milestone. I often
walked past it afterwards, and never for a long time without
thinking of him and half expecting to meet him. But I never did;
and so, as time went on, he passed out of my mind.
When the coach stopped, a very neat lady looked up at the window
and said, "Miss Donny."
"No, ma'am, Esther Summerson."
"That is quite right," said the lady, "Miss Donny."
I now understood that she introduced herself by that name, and
begged Miss Donny's pardon for my mistake, and pointed out my boxes
at her request. Under the direction of a very neat maid, they were
put outside a very small green carriage; and then Miss Donny, the
maid, and I got inside and were driven away.
"Everything is ready for you, Esther," said Miss Donny, "and the
scheme of your pursuits has been arranged in exact accordance with
the wishes of your guardian, Mr. Jarndyce."
"Of--did you say, ma'am?"
"Of your guardian, Mr. Jarndyce," said Miss Donny.
I was so bewildered that Miss Donny thought the cold had been too
severe for me and lent me her smelling-bottle.
"Do you know my--guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, ma'am?" I asked after a
good deal of hesitation.
"Not personally, Esther," said Miss Donny; "merely through his
solicitors, Messrs. Kenge and Carboy, of London. A very superior
gentleman, Mr. Kenge. Truly eloquent indeed. Some of his periods
I felt this to be very true but was too confused to attend to it.
Our speedy arrival at our destination, before I had time to recover
myself, increased my confusion, and I never shall forget the
uncertain and the unreal air of everything at Greenleaf (Miss
Donny's house) that afternoon!
But I soon became used to it. I was so adapted to the routine of
Greenleaf before long that I seemed to have been there a great
while and almost to have dreamed rather than really lived my old
life at my godmother's. Nothing could be more precise, exact, and
orderly than Greenleaf. There was a time for everything all round
the dial of the clock, and everything was done at its appointed
We were twelve boarders, and there were two Miss Donnys, twins. It
was understood that I would have to depend, by and by, on my
qualifications as a governess, and I was not only instructed in
everything that was taught at Greenleaf, but was very soon engaged
in helping to instruct others. Although I was treated in every
other respect like the rest of the school, this single difference
was made in my case from the first. As I began to know more, I
taught more, and so in course of time I had plenty to do, which I
was very fond of doing because it made the dear girls fond of me.
At last, whenever a new pupil came who was a little downcast and
unhappy, she was so sure--indeed I don't know why--to make a friend
of me that all new-comers were confided to my care. They said I
was so gentle, but I am sure THEY were! I often thought of the
resolution I had made on my birthday to try to be industrious,
contented, and true-hearted and to do some good to some one and win
some love if I could; and indeed, indeed, I felt almost ashamed to
have done so little and have won so much.
I passed at Greenleaf six happy, quiet years. I never saw in any
face there, thank heaven, on my birthday, that it would have been
better if I had never been born. When the day came round, it
brought me so many tokens of affectionate remembrance that my room
was beautiful with them from New Year's Day to Christmas.
In those six years I had never been away except on visits at
holiday time in the neighbourhood. After the first six months or
so I had taken Miss Donny's advice in reference to the propriety of
writing to Mr. Kenge to say that I was happy and grateful, and with
her approval I had written such a letter. I had received a formal
answer acknowledging its receipt and saying, "We note the contents
thereof, which shall be duly communicated to our client." After
that I sometimes heard Miss Donny and her sister mention how
regular my accounts were paid, and about twice a year I ventured to
write a similar letter. I always received by return of post
exactly the same answer in the same round hand, with the signature
of Kenge and Carboy in another writing, which I supposed to be Mr.
It seems so curious to me to be obliged to write all this about
myself! As if this narrative were the narrative of MY life! But
my little body will soon fall into the background now.
Six quiet years (I find I am saying it for the second time) I had
passed at Greenleaf, seeing in those around me, as it might be in a
looking-glass, every stage of my own growth and change there, when,
one November morning, I received this letter. I omit the date.
Old Square, Lincoln's Inn
Jarndyce and Jarndyce
Our clt Mr. Jarndyce being abt to rece into his house, under an
Order of the Ct of Chy, a Ward of the Ct in this cause, for whom he
wishes to secure an elgble compn, directs us to inform you that he
will be glad of your serces in the afsd capacity.
We have arrngd for your being forded, carriage free, pr eight
o'clock coach from Reading, on Monday morning next, to White Horse
Cellar, Piccadilly, London, where one of our clks will be in
waiting to convey you to our offe as above.
We are, Madam, Your obedt Servts,
Kenge and Carboy
Miss Esther Summerson
Oh, never, never, never shall I forget the emotion this letter
caused in the house! It was so tender in them to care so much for
me, it was so gracious in that father who had not forgotten me to
have made my orphan way so smooth and easy and to have inclined so
many youthful natures towards me, that I could hardly bear it. Not
that I would have had them less sorry--I am afraid not; but the
pleasure of it, and the pain of it, and the pride and joy of it,
and the humble regret of it were so blended that my heart seemed
almost breaking while it was full of rapture.
The letter gave me only five days' notice of my removal. When
every minute added to the proofs of love and kindness that were
given me in those five days, and when at last the morning came and
when they took me through all the rooms that I might see them for
the last time, and when some cried, "Esther, dear, say good-bye to
me here at my bedside, where you first spoke so kindly to me!" and
when others asked me only to write their names, "With Esther's
love," and when they all surrounded me with their parting presents
and clung to me weeping and cried, "What shall we do when dear,
dear Esther's gone!" and when I tried to tell them how forbearing
and how good they had all been to me and how I blessed and thanked
them every one, what a heart I had!
And when the two Miss Donnys grieved as much to part with me as the
least among them, and when the maids said, "Bless you, miss,
wherever you go!" and when the ugly lame old gardener, who I
thought had hardly noticed me in all those years, came panting
after the coach to give me a little nosegay of geraniums and told
me I had been the light of his eyes--indeed the old man said so!--
what a heart I had then!
And could I help it if with all this, and the coming to the little
school, and the unexpected sight of the poor children outside
waving their hats and bonnets to me, and of a grey-haired gentleman
and lady whose daughter I had helped to teach and at whose house I
had visited (who were said to be the proudest people in all that
country), caring for nothing but calling out, "Good-bye, Esther.
May you be very happy!"--could I help it if I was quite bowed down
in the coach by myself and said "Oh, I am so thankful, I am so
thankful!" many times over!
But of course I soon considered that I must not take tears where I
was going after all that had been done for me. Therefore, of
course, I made myself sob less and persuaded myself to be quiet by
saying very often, "Esther, now you really must! This WILL NOT
do!" I cheered myself up pretty well at last, though I am afraid I
was longer about it than I ought to have been; and when I had
cooled my eyes with lavender water, it was time to watch for
I was quite persuaded that we were there when we were ten miles
off, and when we really were there, that we should never get there.
However, when we began to jolt upon a stone pavement, and
particularly when every other conveyance seemed to be running into
us, and we seemed to be running into every other conveyance, I
began to believe that we really were approaching the end of our
journey. Very soon afterwards we stopped.
A young gentleman who had inked himself by accident addressed me
from the pavement and said, "I am from Kenge and Carboy's, miss, of
"If you please, sir," said I.
He was very obliging, and as he handed me into a fly after
superintending the removal of my boxes, I asked him whether there
was a great fire anywhere? For the streets were so full of dense
brown smoke that scarcely anything was to be seen.
"Oh, dear no, miss," he said. "This is a London particular."
I had never heard of such a thing.
"A fog, miss," said the young gentleman.
"Oh, indeed!" said I.
We drove slowly through the dirtiest and darkest streets that ever
were seen in the world (I thought) and in such a distracting state
of confusion that I wondered how the people kept their senses,
until we passed into sudden quietude under an old gateway and drove
on through a silent square until we came to an odd nook in a
corner, where there was an entrance up a steep, broad flight of
stairs, like an entrance to a church. And there really was a
churchyard outside under some cloisters, for I saw the gravestones
from the staircase window.
This was Kenge and Carboy's. The young gentleman showed me through
an outer office into Mr. Kenge's room--there was no one in it--and
politely put an arm-chair for me by the fire. He then called my
attention to a little looking-glass hanging from a nail on one side
of the chimney-piece.
"In case you should wish to look at yourself, miss, after the
journey, as you're going before the Chancellor. Not that it's
requisite, I am sure," said the young gentleman civilly.
"Going before the Chancellor?" I said, startled for a moment.
"Only a matter of form, miss," returned the young gentleman. "Mr.
Kenge is in court now. He left his compliments, and would you
partake of some refreshment"--there were biscuits and a decanter of
wine on a small table--"and look over the paper," which the young
gentleman gave me as he spoke. He then stirred the fire and left
Everything was so strange--the stranger from its being night in the
day-time, the candles burning with a white flame, and looking raw
and cold--that I read the words in the newspaper without knowing
what they meant and found myself reading the same words repeatedly.
As it was of no use going on in that way, I put the paper down,
took a peep at my bonnet in the glass to see if it was neat, and
looked at the room, which was not half lighted, and at the shabby,
dusty tables, and at the piles of writings, and at a bookcase full
of the most inexpressive-looking books that ever had anything to
say for themselves. Then I went on, thinking, thinking, thinking;
and the fire went on, burning, burning, burning; and the candles
went on flickering and guttering, and there were no snuffers--until
the young gentleman by and by brought a very dirty pair--for two
At last Mr. Kenge came. HE was not altered, but he was surprised
to see how altered I was and appeared quite pleased. "As you are
going to be the companion of the young lady who is now in the
Chancellor's private room, Miss Summerson," he said, "we thought it
well that you should be in attendance also. You will not be
discomposed by the Lord Chancellor, I dare say?"
"No, sir," I said, "I don't think I shall," really not seeing on
consideration why I should be.
So Mr. Kenge gave me his arm and we went round the corner, under a
colonnade, and in at a side door. And so we came, along a passage,
into a comfortable sort of room where a young lady and a young
gentleman were standing near a great, loud-roaring fire. A screen
was interposed between them and it, and they were leaning on the
They both looked up when I came in, and I saw in the young lady,
with the fire shining upon her, such a beautiful girl! With such
rich golden hair, such soft blue eyes, and such a bright, innocent,
"Miss Ada," said Mr. Kenge, "this is Miss Summerson."
She came to meet me with a smile of welcome and her hand extended,
but seemed to change her mind in a moment and kissed me. In short,
she had such a natural, captivating, winning manner that in a few
minutes we were sitting in the window-seat, with the light of the
fire upon us, talking together as free and happy as could be.
What a load off my mind! It was so delightful to know that she
could confide in me and like me! It was so good of her, and so
encouraging to me!
The young gentleman was her distant cousin, she told me, and his
name Richard Carstone. He was a handsome youth with an ingenuous
face and a most engaging laugh; and after she had called him up to
where we sat, he stood by us, in the light of the fire, talking
gaily, like a light-hearted boy. He was very young, not more than
nineteen then, if quite so much, but nearly two years older than
she was. They were both orphans and (what was very unexpected and
curious to me) had never met before that day. Our all three coming
together for the first time in such an unusual place was a thing to
talk about, and we talked about it; and the fire, which had left
off roaring, winked its red eyes at us--as Richard said--like a
drowsy old Chancery lion.
We conversed in a low tone because a full-dressed gentleman in a
bag wig frequently came in and out, and when he did so, we could
hear a drawling sound in the distance, which he said was one of the
counsel in our case addressing the Lord Chancellor. He told Mr.
Kenge that the Chancellor would be up in five minutes; and
presently we heard a bustle and a tread of feet, and Mr. Kenge said
that the Court had risen and his lordship was in the next room.
The gentleman in the bag wig opened the door almost directly and
requested Mr. Kenge to come in. Upon that, we all went into the
next room, Mr. Kenge first, with my darling--it is so natural to me
now that I can't help writing it; and there, plainly dressed in
black and sitting in an arm-chair at a table near the fire, was his
lordship, whose robe, trimmed with beautiful gold lace, was thrown
upon another chair. He gave us a searching look as we entered, but
his manner was both courtly and kind.
The gentleman in the bag wig laid bundles of papers on his
lordship's table, and his lordship silently selected one and turned
over the leaves.
"Miss Clare," said the Lord Chancellor. "Miss Ada Clare?"
Mr. Kenge presented her, and his lordship begged her to sit down
near him. That he admired her and was interested by her even I
could see in a moment. It touched me that the home of such a
beautiful young creature should be represented by that dry,
official place. The Lord High Chancellor, at his best, appeared so
poor a substitute for the love and pride of parents.
"The Jarndyce in question," said the Lord Chancellor, still turning
over leaves, "is Jarndyce of Bleak House."
"Jarndyce of Bleak House, my lord," said Mr. Kenge.
"A dreary name," said the Lord Chancellor.
"But not a dreary place at present, my lord," said Mr. Kenge.
"And Bleak House," said his lordship, "is in--"
"Hertfordshire, my lord."
"Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House is not married?" said his lordship.
"He is not, my lord," said Mr. Kenge.
"Young Mr. Richard Carstone is present?" said the Lord Chancellor,
glancing towards him.
Richard bowed and stepped forward.
"Hum!" said the Lord Chancellor, turning over more leaves.
"Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House, my lord," Mr. Kenge observed in a low
voice, "if I may venture to remind your lordship, provides a
suitable companion for--"
"For Mr. Richard Carstone?" I thought (but I am not quite sure) I
heard his lordship say in an equally low voice and with a smile.
"For Miss Ada Clare. This is the young lady. Miss Summerson."
His lordship gave me an indulgent look and acknowledged my curtsy
"Miss Summerson is not related to any party in the cause, I think?"
"No, my lord."
Mr. Kenge leant over before it was quite said and whispered. His
lordship, with his eyes upon his papers, listened, nodded twice or
thrice, turned over more leaves, and did not look towards me again
until we were going away.
Mr. Kenge now retired, and Richard with him, to where I was, near
the door, leaving my pet (it is so natural to me that again I can't
help it!) sitting near the Lord Chancellor, with whom his lordship
spoke a little part, asking her, as she told me afterwards, whether
she had well reflected on the proposed arrangement, and if she
thought she would be happy under the roof of Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak
House, and why she thought so? Presently he rose courteously and
released her, and then he spoke for a minute or two with Richard
Carstone, not seated, but standing, and altogether with more ease
and less ceremony, as if he still knew, though he WAS Lord
Chancellor, how to go straight to the candour of a boy.
"Very well!" said his lordship aloud. "I shall make the order.
Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House has chosen, so far as I may judge," and
this was when he looked at me, "a very good companion for the young
lady, and the arrangement altogether seems the best of which the
He dismissed us pleasantly, and we all went out, very much obliged
to him for being so affable and polite, by which he had certainly
lost no dignity but seemed to us to have gained some.
When we got under the colonnade, Mr. Kenge remembered that he must
go back for a moment to ask a question and left us in the fog, with
the Lord Chancellor's carriage and servants waiting for him to come
"Well!" said Richard Carstone. "THAT'S over! And where do we go
next, Miss Summerson?"
"Don't you know?" I said.
"Not in the least," said he.
"And don't YOU know, my love?" I asked Ada.
"No!" said she. "Don't you?"
"Not at all!" said I.
We looked at one another, half laughing at our being like the
children in the wood, when a curious little old woman in a squeezed
bonnet and carrying a reticule came curtsying and smiling up to us
with an air of great ceremony.
"Oh!" said she. "The wards in Jarndyce! Ve-ry happy, I am sure,
to have the honour! It is a good omen for youth, and hope, and
beauty when they find themselves in this place, and don't know
what's to come of it."
"Mad!" whispered Richard, not thinking she could hear him.
"Right! Mad, young gentleman," she returned so quickly that he was
quite abashed. "I was a ward myself. I was not mad at that time,"
curtsying low and smiling between every little sentence. "I had
youth and hope. I believe, beauty. It matters very little now.
Neither of the three served or saved me. I have the honour to
attend court regularly. With my documents. I expect a judgment.
Shortly. On the Day of Judgment. I have discovered that the sixth
seal mentioned in the Revelations is the Great Seal. It has been
open a long time! Pray accept my blessing."
As Ada was a little frightened, I said, to humour the poor old
lady, that we were much obliged to her.
"Ye-es!" she said mincingly. "I imagine so. And here is
Conversation Kenge. With HIS documents! How does your honourable
"Quite well, quite well! Now don't be troublesome, that's a good
soul!" said Mr. Kenge, leading the way back.
"By no means," said the poor old lady, keeping up with Ada and me.
"Anything but troublesome. I shall confer estates on both--which
is not being troublesome, I trust? I expect a judgment. Shortly.
On the Day of Judgment. This is a good omen for you. Accept my
She stopped at the bottom of the steep, broad flight of stairs; but
we looked back as we went up, and she was still there, saying,
still with a curtsy and a smile between every little sentence,
"Youth. And hope. And beauty. And Chancery. And Conversation
Kenge! Ha! Pray accept my blessing!"
We were to pass the night, Mr. Kenge told us when we arrived in his
room, at Mrs. Jellyby's; and then he turned to me and said he took
it for granted I knew who Mrs. Jellyby was.
"I really don't, sir," I returned. "Perhaps Mr. Carstone--or Miss
But no, they knew nothing whatever about Mrs. Jellyby. "In-deed!
Mrs. Jellyby," said Mr. Kenge, standing with his back to the fire
and casting his eyes over the dusty hearth-rug as if it were Mrs.
Jellyby's biography, "is a lady of very remarkable strength of
character who devotes herself entirely to the public. She has
devoted herself to an extensive variety of public subjects at
various times and is at present (until something else attracts
her) devoted to the subject of Africa, with a view to the general
cultivation of the coffee berry--AND the natives--and the happy
settlement, on the banks of the African rivers, of our superabundant
home population. Mr. Jarndyce, who is desirous to aid any work
that is considered likely to be a good work and who is much sought
after by philanthropists, has, I believe, a very high opinion of
Mr. Kenge, adjusting his cravat, then looked at us.
"And Mr. Jellyby, sir?" suggested Richard.
"Ah! Mr. Jellyby," said Mr. Kenge, "is--a--I don't know that I can
describe him to you better than by saying that he is the husband of
"A nonentity, sir?" said Richard with a droll look.
"I don't say that," returned Mr. Kenge gravely. "I can't say that,
indeed, for I know nothing whatever OF Mr. Jellyby. I never, to my
knowledge, had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Jellyby. He may be a
very superior man, but he is, so to speak, merged--merged--in the
more shining qualities of his wife." Mr. Kenge proceeded to tell
us that as the road to Bleak House would have been very long, dark,
and tedious on such an evening, and as we had been travelling
already, Mr. Jarndyce had himself proposed this arrangement. A
carriage would be at Mrs. Jellyby's to convey us out of town early
in the forenoon of to-morrow.
He then rang a little bell, and the young gentleman came in.
Addressing him by the name of Guppy, Mr. Kenge inquired whether
Miss Summerson's boxes and the rest of the baggage had been "sent
round." Mr. Guppy said yes, they had been sent round, and a coach
was waiting to take us round too as soon as we pleased.
"Then it only remains," said Mr. Kenge, shaking hands with us, "for
me to express my lively satisfaction in (good day, Miss Clare!) the
arrangement this day concluded and my (GOOD-bye to you, Miss
Summerson!) lively hope that it will conduce to the happiness, the
(glad to have had the honour of making your acquaintance, Mr.
Carstone!) welfare, the advantage in all points of view, of all
concerned! Guppy, see the party safely there."
"Where IS 'there,' Mr. Guppy?" said Richard as we went downstairs.
"No distance," said Mr. Guppy; "round in Thavies Inn, you know."
"I can't say I know where it is, for I come from Winchester and am
strange in London."
"Only round the corner," said Mr. Guppy. "We just twist up
Chancery Lane, and cut along Holborn, and there we are in four
minutes' time, as near as a toucher. This is about a London
particular NOW, ain't it, miss?" He seemed quite delighted with it
on my account.
"The fog is very dense indeed!" said I.
"Not that it affects you, though, I'm sure," said Mr. Guppy,
putting up the steps. "On the contrary, it seems to do you good,
miss, judging from your appearance."
I knew he meant well in paying me this compliment, so I laughed at
myself for blushing at it when he had shut the door and got upon
the box; and we all three laughed and chatted about our
inexperience and the strangeness of London until we turned up under
an archway to our destination--a narrow street of high houses like
an oblong cistern to hold the fog. There was a confused little
crowd of people, principally children, gathered about the house at
which we stopped, which had a tarnished brass plate on the door
with the inscription JELLYBY.
"Don't be frightened!" said Mr. Guppy, looking in at the coach-
window. "One of the young Jellybys been and got his head through
the area railings!"
"Oh, poor child," said I; "let me out, if you please!"
"Pray be careful of yourself, miss. The young Jellybys are always
up to something," said Mr. Guppy.
I made my way to the poor child, who was one of the dirtiest little
unfortunates I ever saw, and found him very hot and frightened and
crying loudly, fixed by the neck between two iron railings, while a
milkman and a beadle, with the kindest intentions possible, were
endeavouring to drag him back by the legs, under a general
impression that his skull was compressible by those means. As I
found (after pacifying him) that he was a little boy with a
naturally large head, I thought that perhaps where his head could
go, his body could follow, and mentioned that the best mode of
extrication might be to push him forward. This was so favourably
received by the milkman and beadle that he would immediately have
been pushed into the area if I had not held his pinafore while
Richard and Mr. Guppy ran down through the kitchen to catch him
when he should be released. At last he was happily got down
without any accident, and then he began to beat Mr. Guppy with a
hoop-stick in quite a frantic manner.
Nobody had appeared belonging to the house except a person in
pattens, who had been poking at the child from below with a broom;
I don't know with what object, and I don't think she did. I
therefore supposed that Mrs. Jellyby was not at home, and was quite
surprised when the person appeared in the passage without the
pattens, and going up to the back room on the first floor before
Ada and me, announced us as, "Them two young ladies, Missis
Jellyby!" We passed several more children on the way up, whom it
was difficult to avoid treading on in the dark; and as we came into
Mrs. Jellyby's presence, one of the poor little things fell
downstairs--down a whole flight (as it sounded to me), with a great
Mrs. Jellyby, whose face reflected none of the uneasiness which we
could not help showing in our own faces as the dear child's head
recorded its passage with a bump on every stair--Richard afterwards
said he counted seven, besides one for the landing--received us
with perfect equanimity. She was a pretty, very diminutive, plump
woman of from forty to fifty, with handsome eyes, though they had a
curious habit of seeming to look a long way off. As if--I am
quoting Richard again--they could see nothing nearer than Africa!
"I am very glad indeed," said Mrs. Jellyby in an agreeable voice,
"to have the pleasure of receiving you. I have a great respect for
Mr. Jarndyce, and no one in whom he is interested can be an object
of indifference to me."
We expressed our acknowledgments and sat down behind the door,
where there was a lame invalid of a sofa. Mrs. Jellyby had very
good hair but was too much occupied with her African duties to
brush it. The shawl in which she had been loosely muffled dropped
onto her chair when she advanced to us; and as she turned to resume
her seat, we could not help noticing that her dress didn't nearly
meet up the back and that the open space was railed across with a
lattice-work of stay-lace--like a summer-house.
The room, which was strewn with papers and nearly filled by a great
writing-table covered with similar litter, was, I must say, not
only very untidy but very dirty. We were obliged to take notice of
that with our sense of sight, even while, with our sense of
hearing, we followed the poor child who had tumbled downstairs: I
think into the back kitchen, where somebody seemed to stifle him.
But what principally struck us was a jaded and unhealthy-looking
though by no means plain girl at the writing-table, who sat biting
the feather of her pen and staring at us. I suppose nobody ever
was in such a state of ink. And from her tumbled hair to her
pretty feet, which were disfigured with frayed and broken satin
slippers trodden down at heel, she really seemed to have no article
of dress upon her, from a pin upwards, that was in its proper
condition or its right place.
"You find me, my dears," said Mrs. Jellyby, snuffing the two great
office candles in tin candlesticks, which made the room taste
strongly of hot tallow (the fire had gone out, and there was
nothing in the grate but ashes, a bundle of wood, and a poker),
"you find me, my dears, as usual, very busy; but that you will
excuse. The African project at present employs my whole time. It
involves me in correspondence with public bodies and with private
individuals anxious for the welfare of their species all over the
country. I am happy to say it is advancing. We hope by this time
next year to have from a hundred and fifty to two hundred healthy
families cultivating coffee and educating the natives of
Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger."
As Ada said nothing, but looked at me, I said it must be very
"It IS gratifying," said Mrs. Jellyby. "It involves the devotion
of all my energies, such as they are; but that is nothing, so that
it succeeds; and I am more confident of success every day. Do you
know, Miss Summerson, I almost wonder that YOU never turned your
thoughts to Africa."
This application of the subject was really so unexpected to me that
I was quite at a loss how to receive it. I hinted that the
"The finest climate in the world!" said Mrs. Jellyby.
"Certainly. With precaution," said Mrs. Jellyby. "You may go into
Holborn, without precaution, and be run over. You may go into
Holborn, with precaution, and never be run over. Just so with
I said, "No doubt." I meant as to Holborn.
"If you would like," said Mrs. Jellyby, putting a number of papers
towards us, "to look over some remarks on that head, and on the
general subject, which have been extensively circulated, while I
finish a letter I am now dictating to my eldest daughter, who is my
The girl at the table left off biting her pen and made a return to
our recognition, which was half bashful and half sulky.
"--I shall then have finished for the present," proceeded Mrs.
Jellyby with a sweet smile, "though my work is never done. Where
are you, Caddy?"
"'Presents her compliments to Mr. Swallow, and begs--'" said Caddy.
"'And begs,'" said Mrs. Jellyby, dictating, "'to inform him, in
reference to his letter of inquiry on the African project--' No,
Peepy! Not on my account!"
Peepy (so self-named) was the unfortunate child who had fallen
downstairs, who now interrupted the correspondence by presenting
himself, with a strip of plaster on his forehead, to exhibit his
wounded knees, in which Ada and I did not know which to pity most--
the bruises or the dirt. Mrs. Jellyby merely added, with the
serene composure with which she said everything, "Go along, you
naughty Peepy!" and fixed her fine eyes on Africa again.
However, as she at once proceeded with her dictation, and as I
interrupted nothing by doing it, I ventured quietly to stop poor
Peepy as he was going out and to take him up to nurse. He looked
very much astonished at it and at Ada's kissing him, but soon fell
fast asleep in my arms, sobbing at longer and longer intervals,
until he was quiet. I was so occupied with Peepy that I lost the
letter in detail, though I derived such a general impression from
it of the momentous importance of Africa, and the utter
insignificance of all other places and things, that I felt quite
ashamed to have thought so little about it.
"Six o'clock!" said Mrs. Jellyby. "And our dinner hour is
nominally (for we dine at all hours) five! Caddy, show Miss Clare
and Miss Summerson their rooms. You will like to make some change,
perhaps? You will excuse me, I know, being so much occupied. Oh,
that very bad child! Pray put him down, Miss Summerson!"
I begged permission to retain him, truly saying that he was not at
all troublesome, and carried him upstairs and laid him on my bed.
Ada and I had two upper rooms with a door of communication between.
They were excessively bare and disorderly, and the curtain to my
window was fastened up with a fork.
"You would like some hot water, wouldn't you?" said Miss Jellyby,
looking round for a jug with a handle to it, but looking in vain.
"If it is not being troublesome," said we.
"Oh, it's not the trouble," returned Miss Jellyby; "the question
is, if there IS any."
The evening was so very cold and the rooms had such a marshy smell
that I must confess it was a little miserable, and Ada was half
crying. We soon laughed, however, and were busily unpacking when
Miss Jellyby came back to say that she was sorry there was no hot
water, but they couldn't find the kettle, and the boiler was out of
We begged her not to mention it and made all the haste we could to
get down to the fire again. But all the little children had come
up to the landing outside to look at the phenomenon of Peepy lying
on my bed, and our attention was distracted by the constant
apparition of noses and fingers in situations of danger between the
hinges of the doors. It was impossible to shut the door of either
room, for my lock, with no knob to it, looked as if it wanted to be
wound up; and though the handle of Ada's went round and round with
the greatest smoothness, it was attended with no effect whatever on
the door. Therefore I proposed to the children that they should
come in and be very good at my table, and I would tell them the
story of Little Red Riding Hood while I dressed; which they did,
and were as quiet as mice, including Peepy, who awoke opportunely
before the appearance of the wolf.
When we went downstairs we found a mug with "A Present from
Tunbridge Wells" on it lighted up in the staircase window with a
floating wick, and a young woman, with a swelled face bound up in a
flannel bandage blowing the fire of the drawing-room (now connected
by an open door with Mrs. Jellyby's room) and choking dreadfully.
It smoked to that degree, in short, that we all sat coughing and
crying with the windows open for half an hour, during which Mrs.
Jellyby, with the same sweetness of temper, directed letters about
Africa. Her being so employed was, I must say, a great relief to
me, for Richard told us that he had washed his hands in a pie-dish
and that they had found the kettle on his dressing-table, and he
made Ada laugh so that they made me laugh in the most ridiculous
Soon after seven o'clock we went down to dinner, carefully, by Mrs.
Jellyby's advice, for the stair-carpets, besides being very
deficient in stair-wires, were so torn as to be absolute traps. We
had a fine cod-fish, a piece of roast beef, a dish of cutlets, and
a pudding; an excellent dinner, if it had had any cooking to speak
of, but it was almost raw. The young woman with the flannel
bandage waited, and dropped everything on the table wherever it
happened to go, and never moved it again until she put it on the
stairs. The person I had seen in pattens, who I suppose to have
been the cook, frequently came and skirmished with her at the door,
and there appeared to be ill will between them.
All through dinner--which was long, in consequence of such
accidents as the dish of potatoes being mislaid in the coal skuttle
and the handle of the corkscrew coming off and striking the young
woman in the chin--Mrs. Jellyby preserved the evenness of her
disposition. She told us a great deal that was interesting about
Borrioboola-Gha and the natives, and received so many letters that
Richard, who sat by her, saw four envelopes in the gravy at once.
Some of the letters were proceedings of ladies' committees or
resolutions of ladies' meetings, which she read to us; others were
applications from people excited in various ways about the
cultivation of coffee, and natives; others required answers, and
these she sent her eldest daughter from the table three or four
times to write. She was full of business and undoubtedly was, as
she had told us, devoted to the cause.
I was a little curious to know who a mild bald gentleman in
spectacles was, who dropped into a vacant chair (there was no top
or bottom in particular) after the fish was taken away and seemed
passively to submit himself to Borrioboola-Gha but not to be
actively interested in that settlement. As he never spoke a word,
he might have been a native but for his complexion. It was not
until we left the table and he remained alone with Richard that the
possibility of his being Mr. Jellyby ever entered my head. But he
WAS Mr. Jellyby; and a loquacious young man called Mr. Quale, with
large shining knobs for temples and his hair all brushed to the
back of his head, who came in the evening, and told Ada he was a
philanthropist, also informed her that he called the matrimonial
alliance of Mrs. Jellyby with Mr. Jellyby the union of mind and
This young man, besides having a great deal to say for himself
about Africa and a project of his for teaching the coffee colonists
to teach the natives to turn piano-forte legs and establish an
export trade, delighted in drawing Mrs. Jellyby out by saving, "I
believe now, Mrs. Jellyby, you have received as many as from one
hundred and fifty to two hundred letters respecting Africa in a
single day, have you not?" or, "If my memory does not deceive me,
Mrs. Jellyby, you once mentioned that you had sent off five
thousand circulars from one post-office at one time?"--always
repeating Mrs. Jellyby's answer to us like an interpreter. During
the whole evening, Mr. Jellyby sat in a corner with his head
against the wall as if he were subject to low spirits. It seemed
that he had several times opened his mouth when alone with Richard
after dinner, as if he had something on his mind, but had always
shut it again, to Richard's extreme confusion, without saying
Mrs. Jellyby, sitting in quite a nest of waste paper, drank coffee
all the evening and dictated at intervals to her eldest daughter.
She also held a discussion with Mr. Quale, of which the subject
seemed to be--if I understood it--the brotherhood of humanity, and
gave utterance to some beautiful sentiments. I was not so
attentive an auditor as I might have wished to be, however, for
Peepy and the other children came flocking about Ada and me in a
corner of the drawing-room to ask for another story; so we sat down
among them and told them in whispers "Puss in Boots" and I don't
know what else until Mrs. Jellyby, accidentally remembering them,
sent them to bed. As Peepy cried for me to take him to bed, I
carried him upstairs, where the young woman with the flannel
bandage charged into the midst of the little family like a dragon
and overturned them into cribs.
After that I occupied myself in making our room a little tidy and
in coaxing a very cross fire that had been lighted to burn, which
at last it did, quite brightly. On my return downstairs, I felt
that Mrs. Jellyby looked down upon me rather for being so
frivolous, and I was sorry for it, though at the same time I knew
that I had no higher pretensions.
It was nearly midnight before we found an opportunity of going to
bed, and even then we left Mrs. Jellyby among her papers drinking
coffee and Miss Jellyby biting the feather of her pen.
"What a strange house!" said Ada when we got upstairs. "How
curious of my cousin Jarndyce to send us here!"
"My love," said I, "it quite confuses me. I want to understand it,
and I can't understand it at all."
"What?" asked Ada with her pretty smile.
"All this, my dear," said I. "It MUST be very good of Mrs. Jellyby
to take such pains about a scheme for the benefit of natives--and
yet--Peepy and the housekeeping!"
Ada laughed and put her arm about my neck as I stood looking at the
fire, and told me I was a quiet, dear, good creature and had won
her heart. "You are so thoughtful, Esther," she said, "and yet so
cheerful! And you do so much, so unpretendingly! You would make a
home out of even this house."
My simple darling! She was quite unconscious that she only praised
herself and that it was in the goodness of her own heart that she
made so much of me!
"May I ask you a question?" said I when we had sat before the fire
a little while.
"Five hundred," said Ada.
"Your cousin, Mr. Jarndyce. I owe so much to him. Would you mind
describing him to me?"
Shaking her golden hair, Ada turned her eyes upon me with such
laughing wonder that I was full of wonder too, partly at her
beauty, partly at her surprise.
"Esther!" she cried.
"You want a description of my cousin Jarndyce?"
"My dear, I never saw him."
"And I never saw him!" returned Ada.
Well, to be sure!
No, she had never seen him. Young as she was when her mama died,
she remembered how the tears would come into her eyes when she
spoke of him and of the noble generosity of his character, which
she had said was to be trusted above all earthly things; and Ada
trusted it. Her cousin Jarndyce had written to her a few months
ago--"a plain, honest letter," Ada said--proposing the arrangement
we were now to enter on and telling her that "in time it might heal
some of the wounds made by the miserable Chancery suit." She had
replied, gratefully accepting his proposal. Richard had received a
similar letter and had made a similar response. He HAD seen Mr.
Jarndyce once, but only once, five years ago, at Winchester school.
He had told Ada, when they were leaning on the screen before the
fire where I found them, that he recollected him as "a bluff, rosy
fellow." This was the utmost description Ada could give me.
It set me thinking so that when Ada was asleep, I still remained
before the fire, wondering and wondering about Bleak House, and
wondering and wondering that yesterday morning should seem so long
ago. I don't know where my thoughts had wandered when they were
recalled by a tap at the door.
I opened it softly and found Miss Jellyby shivering there with a
broken candle in a broken candlestick in one hand and an egg-cup in
"Good night!" she said very sulkily.
"Good night!" said I.
"May I come in?" she shortly and unexpectedly asked me in the same
"Certainly," said I. "Don't wake Miss Clare."
She would not sit down, but stood by the fire dipping her inky
middle finger in the egg-cup, which contained vinegar, and smearing
it over the ink stains on her face, frowning the whole time and
looking very gloomy.
"I wish Africa was dead!" she said on a sudden.
I was going to remonstrate.
"I do!" she said "Don't talk to me, Miss Summerson. I hate it and
detest it. It's a beast!"
I told her she was tired, and I was sorry. I put my hand upon her
head, and touched her forehead, and said it was hot now but would
be cool to-morrow. She still stood pouting and frowning at me, but
presently put down her egg-cup and turned softly towards the bed
where Ada lay.
"She is very pretty!" she said with the same knitted brow and in
the same uncivil manner.
I assented with a smile.
"An orphan. Ain't she?"
"But knows a quantity, I suppose? Can dance, and play music, and
sing? She can talk French, I suppose, and do geography, and
globes, and needlework, and everything?"
"No doubt," said I.
"I can't," she returned. "I can't do anything hardly, except
write. I'm always writing for Ma. I wonder you two were not
ashamed of yourselves to come in this afternoon and see me able to
do nothing else. It was like your ill nature. Yet you think
yourselves very fine, I dare say!"
I could see that the poor girl was near crying, and I resumed my
chair without speaking and looked at her (I hope) as mildly as I
felt towards her.
"It's disgraceful," she said. "You know it is. The whole house is
disgraceful. The children are disgraceful. I'M disgraceful. Pa's
miserable, and no wonder! Priscilla drinks--she's always drinking.
It's a great shame and a great story of you if you say you didn't
smell her to-day. It was as bad as a public-house, waiting at
dinner; you know it was!"
"My dear, I don't know it," said I.
"You do," she said very shortly. "You shan't say you don't. You
"Oh, my dear!" said I. "If you won't let me speak--"
"You're speaking now. You know you are. Don't tell stories, Miss
"My dear," said I, "as long as you won't hear me out--"
"I don't want to hear you out."
"Oh, yes, I think you do," said I, "because that would be so very
unreasonable. I did not know what you tell me because the servant
did not come near me at dinner; but I don't doubt what you tell me,
and I am sorry to hear it."
"You needn't make a merit of that," said she.
"No, my dear," said I. "That would be very foolish."
She was still standing by the bed, and now stooped down (but still
with the same discontented face) and kissed Ada. That done, she
came softly back and stood by the side of my chair. Her bosom was
heaving in a distressful manner that I greatly pitied, but I
thought it better not to speak.
"I wish I was dead!" she broke out. "I wish we were all dead. It
would be a great deal better for us."
In a moment afterwards, she knelt on the ground at my side, hid her
face in my dress, passionately begged my pardon, and wept. I
comforted her and would have raised her, but she cried no, no; she
wanted to stay there!
"You used to teach girls," she said, "If you could only have taught
me, I could have learnt from you! I am so very miserable, and I
like you so much!"
I could not persuade her to sit by me or to do anything but move a
ragged stool to where she was kneeling, and take that, and still
hold my dress in the same manner. By degrees the poor tired girl
fell asleep, and then I contrived to raise her head so that it
should rest on my lap, and to cover us both with shawls. The fire
went out, and all night long she slumbered thus before the ashy
grate. At first I was painfully awake and vainly tried to lose
myself, with my eyes closed, among the scenes of the day. At
length, by slow degrees, they became indistinct and mingled. I
began to lose the identity of the sleeper resting on me. Now it
was Ada, now one of my old Reading friends from whom I could not
believe I had so recently parted. Now it was the little mad woman
worn out with curtsying and smiling, now some one in authority at
Bleak House. Lastly, it was no one, and I was no one.
The purblind day was feebly struggling with the fog when I opened
my eyes to encounter those of a dirty-faced little spectre fixed
upon me. Peepy had scaled his crib, and crept down in his bed-gown
and cap, and was so cold that his teeth were chattering as if he
had cut them all.
A Morning Adventure
Although the morning was raw, and although the fog still seemed
heavy--I say seemed, for the windows were so encrusted with dirt
that they would have made midsummer sunshine dim--I was
sufficiently forewarned of the discomfort within doors at that
early hour and sufficiently curious about London to think it a good
idea on the part of Miss Jellyby when she proposed that we should
go out for a walk.
"Ma won't be down for ever so long," she said, "and then it's a
chance if breakfast's ready for an hour afterwards, they dawdle so.
As to Pa, he gets what he can and goes to the office. He never has
what you would call a regular breakfast. Priscilla leaves him out
the loaf and some milk, when there is any, overnight. Sometimes
there isn't any milk, and sometimes the cat drinks it. But I'm
afraid you must be tired, Miss Summerson, and perhaps you would
rather go to bed."
"I am not at all tired, my dear," said I, "and would much prefer to
"If you're sure you would," returned Miss Jellyby, "I'll get my
Ada said she would go too, and was soon astir. I made a proposal
to Peepy, in default of being able to do anything better for him,
that he should let me wash him and afterwards lay him down on my
bed again. To this he submitted with the best grace possible,
staring at me during the whole operation as if he never had been,
and never could again be, so astonished in his life--looking very
miserable also, certainly, but making no complaint, and going
snugly to sleep as soon as it was over. At first I was in two
minds about taking such a liberty, but I soon reflected that nobody
in the house was likely to notice it.
What with the bustle of dispatching Peepy and the bustle of getting
myself ready and helping Ada, I was soon quite in a glow. We found
Miss Jellyby trying to warm herself at the fire in the writing-
room, which Priscilla was then lighting with a smutty parlour
candlestick, throwing the candle in to make it burn better.
Everything was just as we had left it last night and was evidently
intended to remain so. Below-stairs the dinner-cloth had not been
taken away, but had been left ready for breakfast. Crumbs, dust,
and waste-paper were all over the house. Some pewter pots and a
milk-can hung on the area railings; the door stood open; and we met
the cook round the corner coming out of a public-house, wiping her
mouth. She mentioned, as she passed us, that she had been to see
what o'clock it was.
But before we met the cook, we met Richard, who was dancing up and
down Thavies Inn to warm his feet. He was agreeably surprised to
see us stirring so soon and said he would gladly share our walk.
So he took care of Ada, and Miss Jellyby and I went first. I may
mention that Miss Jellyby had relapsed into her sulky manner and
that I really should not have thought she liked me much unless she
had told me so.
"Where would you wish to go?" she asked.
"Anywhere, my dear," I replied.
"Anywhere's nowhere," said Miss Jellyby, stopping perversely.
"Let us go somewhere at any rate," said I.
She then walked me on very fast.
"I don't care!" she said. "Now, you are my witness, Miss
Summerson, I say I don't care--but if he was to come to our house
with his great, shining, lumpy forehead night after night till he
was as old as Methuselah, I wouldn't have anything to say to him.
Such ASSES as he and Ma make of themselves!"
"My dear!" I remonstrated, in allusion to the epithet and the
vigorous emphasis Miss Jellyby set upon it. "Your duty as a child--"
"Oh! Don't talk of duty as a child, Miss Summerson; where's Ma's
duty as a parent? All made over to the public and Africa, I
suppose! Then let the public and Africa show duty as a child; it's
much more their affair than mine. You are shocked, I dare say!
Very well, so am I shocked too; so we are both shocked, and there's
an end of it!"
She walked me on faster yet.
"But for all that, I say again, he may come, and come, and come,
and I won't have anything to say to him. I can't bear him. If
there's any stuff in the world that I hate and detest, it's the
stuff he and Ma talk. I wonder the very paving-stones opposite our
house can have the patience to stay there and be a witness of such
inconsistencies and contradictions as all that sounding nonsense,
and Ma's management!"
I could not but understand her to refer to Mr. Quale, the young
gentleman who had appeared after dinner yesterday. I was saved the
disagreeable necessity of pursuing the subject by Richard and Ada
coming up at a round pace, laughing and asking us if we meant to
run a race. Thus interrupted, Miss Jellyby became silent and
walked moodily on at my side while I admired the long successions
and varieties of streets, the quantity of people already going to
and fro, the number of vehicles passing and repassing, the busy
preparations in the setting forth of shop windows and the sweeping
out of shops, and the extraordinary creatures in rags secretly
groping among the swept-out rubbish for pins and other refuse.
"So, cousin," said the cheerful voice of Richard to Ada behind me.
"We are never to get out of Chancery! We have come by another way
to our place of meeting yesterday, and--by the Great Seal, here's
the old lady again!"
Truly, there she was, immediately in front of us, curtsying, and
smiling, and saying with her yesterday's air of patronage, "The
wards in Jarndyce! Ve-ry happy, I am sure!"
"You are out early, ma'am," said I as she curtsied to me.
"Ye-es! I usually walk here early. Before the court sits. It's
retired. I collect my thoughts here for the business of the day,"
said the old lady mincingly. "The business of the day requires a
great deal of thought. Chancery justice is so ve-ry difficult to
"Who's this, Miss Summerson?" whispered Miss Jellyby, drawing my
arm tighter through her own.
The little old lady's hearing was remarkably quick. She answered
for herself directly.
"A suitor, my child. At your service. I have the honour to attend
court regularly. With my documents. Have I the pleasure of
addressing another of the youthful parties in Jarndyce?" said the
old lady, recovering herself, with her head on one side, from a
very low curtsy.
Richard, anxious to atone for his thoughtlessness of yesterday,
good-naturedly explained that Miss Jellyby was not connected with
"Ha!" said the old lady. "She does not expect a judgment? She
will still grow old. But not so old. Oh, dear, no! This is the
garden of Lincoln's Inn. I call it my garden. It is quite a bower
in the summer-time. Where the birds sing melodiously. I pass the
greater part of the long vacation here. In contemplation. You
find the long vacation exceedingly long, don't you?"
We said yes, as she seemed to expect us to say so.
"When the leaves are falling from the trees and there are no more
flowers in bloom to make up into nosegays for the Lord Chancellor's
court," said the old lady, "the vacation is fulfilled and the sixth
seal, mentioned in the Revelations, again prevails. Pray come and
see my lodging. It will be a good omen for me. Youth, and hope,
and beauty are very seldom there. It is a long, long time since I
had a visit from either."
She had taken my hand, and leading me and Miss Jellyby away,
beckoned Richard and Ada to come too. I did not know how to excuse
myself and looked to Richard for aid. As he was half amused and
half curious and all in doubt how to get rid of the old lady
without offence, she continued to lead us away, and he and Ada
continued to follow, our strange conductress informing us all the
time, with much smiling condescension, that she lived close by.
It was quite true, as it soon appeared. She lived so close by that
we had not time to have done humouring her for a few moments before
she was at home. Slipping us out at a little side gate, the old
lady stopped most unexpectedly in a narrow back street, part of
some courts and lanes immediately outside the wall of the inn, and
said, "This is my lodging. Pray walk up!"
She had stopped at a shop over which was written KROOK, RAG AND
BOTTLE WAREHOUSE. Also, in long thin letters, KROOK, DEALER IN
MARINE STORES. In one part of the window was a picture of a red
paper mill at which a cart was unloading a quantity of sacks of old
rags. In another was the inscription BONES BOUGHT. In another,
KITCHEN-STUFF BOUGHT. In another, OLD IRON BOUGHT. In another,
WASTE-PAPER BOUGHT. In another, LADIES' AND GENTLEMEN'S WARDROBES
BOUGHT. Everything seemed to be bought and nothing to be sold
there. In all parts of the window were quantities of dirty
bottles--blacking bottles, medicine bottles, ginger-beer and soda-
water bottles, pickle bottles, wine bottles, ink bottles; I am
reminded by mentioning the latter that the shop had in several
little particulars the air of being in a legal neighbourhood and of
being, as it were, a dirty hanger-on and disowned relation of the
law. There were a great many ink bottles. There was a little
tottering bench of shabby old volumes outside the door, labelled
"Law Books, all at 9d." Some of the inscriptions I have enumerated
were written in law-hand, like the papers I had seen in Kenge and
Carboy's office and the letters I had so long received from the
firm. Among them was one, in the same writing, having nothing to
do with the business of the shop, but announcing that a respectable
man aged forty-five wanted engrossing or copying to execute with
neatness and dispatch: Address to Nemo, care of Mr. Krook, within.
There were several second-hand bags, blue and red, hanging up. A
little way within the shop-door lay heaps of old crackled parchment
scrolls and discoloured and dog's-eared law-papers. I could have
fancied that all the rusty keys, of which there must have been
hundreds huddled together as old iron, had once belonged to doors
of rooms or strong chests in lawyers' offices. The litter of rags
tumbled partly into and partly out of a one-legged wooden scale,
hanging without any counterpoise from a beam, might have been
counsellors' bands and gowns torn up. One had only to fancy, as
Richard whispered to Ada and me while we all stood looking in, that
yonder bones in a corner, piled together and picked very clean,
were the bones of clients, to make the picture complete.
As it was still foggy and dark, and as the shop was blinded besides
by the wall of Lincoln's Inn, intercepting the light within a
couple of yards, we should not have seen so much but for a lighted
lantern that an old man in spectacles and a hairy cap was carrying
about in the shop. Turning towards the door, he now caught sight
of us. He was short, cadaverous, and withered, with his head sunk
sideways between his shoulders and the breath issuing in visible
smoke from his mouth as if he were on fire within. His throat,
chin, and eyebrows were so frosted with white hairs and so gnarled
with veins and puckered skin that he looked from his breast upward
like some old root in a fall of snow.
"Hi, hi!" said the old man, coming to the door. "Have you anything
We naturally drew back and glanced at our conductress, who had been
trying to open the house-door with a key she had taken from her
pocket, and to whom Richard now said that as we had had the
pleasure of seeing where she lived, we would leave her, being
pressed for time. But she was not to be so easily left. She
became so fantastically and pressingly earnest in her entreaties
that we would walk up and see her apartment for an instant, and was
so bent, in her harmless way, on leading me in, as part of the good
omen she desired, that I (whatever the others might do) saw nothing
for it but to comply. I suppose we were all more or less curious;
at any rate, when the old man added his persuasions to hers and
said, "Aye, aye! Please her! It won't take a minute! Come in,
come in! Come in through the shop if t'other door's out of order!"
we all went in, stimulated by Richard's laughing encouragement and
relying on his protection.
"My landlord, Krook," said the little old lady, condescending to
him from her lofty station as she presented him to us. "He is
called among the neighbours the Lord Chancellor. His shop is
called the Court of Chancery. He is a very eccentric person. He
is very odd. Oh, I assure you he is very odd!"
She shook her head a great many times and tapped her forehead with
her finger to express to us that we must have the goodness to
excuse him, "For he is a little--you know--M!" said the old lady
with great stateliness. The old man overheard, and laughed.
"It's true enough," he said, going before us with the lantern,
"that they call me the Lord Chancellor and call my shop Chancery.
And why do you think they call me the Lord Chancellor and my shop
"I don't know, I am sure!" said Richard rather carelessly.
"You see," said the old man, stopping and turning round, "they--Hi!
Here's lovely hair! I have got three sacks of ladies' hair below,
but none so beautiful and fine as this. What colour, and what
"That'll do, my good friend!" said Richard, strongly disapproving
of his having drawn one of Ada's tresses through his yellow hand.
"You can admire as the rest of us do without taking that liberty."
The old man darted at him a sudden look which even called my
attention from Ada, who, startled and blushing, was so remarkably
beautiful that she seemed to fix the wandering attention of the
little old lady herself. But as Ada interposed and laughingly said
she could only feel proud of such genuine admiration, Mr. Krook
shrunk into his former self as suddenly as he had leaped out of it.
"You see, I have so many things here," he resumed, holding up the
lantern, "of so many kinds, and all as the neighbours think (but
THEY know nothing), wasting away and going to rack and ruin, that
that's why they have given me and my place a christening. And I
have so many old parchmentses and papers in my stock. And I have a
liking for rust and must and cobwebs. And all's fish that comes to
my net. And I can't abear to part with anything I once lay hold of
(or so my neighbours think, but what do THEY know?) or to alter
anything, or to have any sweeping, nor scouring, nor cleaning, nor
repairing going on about me. That's the way I've got the ill name
of Chancery. I don't mind. I go to see my noble and learned
brother pretty well every day, when he sits in the Inn. He don't
notice me, but I notice him. There's no great odds betwixt us. We
both grub on in a muddle. Hi, Lady Jane!"
A large grey cat leaped from some neighbouring shelf on his
shoulder and startled us all.
"Hi! Show 'em how you scratch. Hi! Tear, my lady!" said her
The cat leaped down and ripped at a bundle of rags with her
tigerish claws, with a sound that it set my teeth on edge to hear.
"She'd do as much for any one I was to set her on," said the old
man. "I deal in cat-skins among other general matters, and hers
was offered to me. It's a very fine skin, as you may see, but I
didn't have it stripped off! THAT warn't like Chancery practice
though, says you!"
He had by this time led us across the shop, and now opened a door
in the back part of it, leading to the house-entry. As he stood
with his hand upon the lock, the little old lady graciously
observed to him before passing out, "That will do, Krook. You mean
well, but are tiresome. My young friends are pressed for time. I
have none to spare myself, having to attend court very soon. My
young friends are the wards in Jarndyce."
"Jarndyce!" said the old man with a start.
"Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The great suit, Krook," returned his
"Hi!" exclaimed the old man in a tone of thoughtful amazement and
with a wider stare than before. "Think of it!"
He seemed so rapt all in a moment and looked so curiously at us
that Richard said, "Why, you appear to trouble yourself a good deal
about the causes before your noble and learned brother, the other
"Yes," said the old man abstractedly. "Sure! YOUR name now will
"Carstone," he repeated, slowly checking off that name upon his
forefinger; and each of the others he went on to mention upon a
separate finger. "Yes. There was the name of Barbary, and the
name of Clare, and the name of Dedlock, too, I think."
"He knows as much of the cause as the real salaried Chancellor!"
said Richard, quite astonished, to Ada and me.
"Aye!" said the old man, coming slowly out of his abstraction.
"Yes! Tom Jarndyce--you'll excuse me, being related; but he was
never known about court by any other name, and was as well known
there as--she is now," nodding slightly at his lodger. "Tom
Jarndyce was often in here. He got into a restless habit of
strolling about when the cause was on, or expected, talking to the
little shopkeepers and telling 'em to keep out of Chancery,
whatever they did. 'For,' says he, 'it's being ground to bits in a
slow mill; it's being roasted at a slow fire; it's being stung to
death by single bees; it's being drowned by drops; it's going mad
by grains.' He was as near making away with himself, just where
the young lady stands, as near could be."
We listened with horror.
"He come in at the door," said the old man, slowly pointing an
imaginary track along the shop, "on the day he did it--the whole
neighbourhood had said for months before that he would do it, of a
certainty sooner or later--he come in at the door that day, and
walked along there, and sat himself on a bench that stood there,
and asked me (you'll judge I was a mortal sight younger then) to
fetch him a pint of wine. 'For,' says he, 'Krook, I am much
depressed; my cause is on again, and I think I'm nearer judgment
than I ever was.' I hadn't a mind to leave him alone; and I
persuaded him to go to the tavern over the way there, t'other side
my lane (I mean Chancery Lane); and I followed and looked in at the
window, and saw him, comfortable as I thought, in the arm-chair by
the fire, and company with him. I hadn't hardly got back here when
I heard a shot go echoing and rattling right away into the inn. I
ran out--neighbours ran out--twenty of us cried at once, 'Tom
The old man stopped, looked hard at us, looked down into the
lantern, blew the light out, and shut the lantern up.
"We were right, I needn't tell the present hearers. Hi! To be
sure, how the neighbourhood poured into court that afternoon while
the cause was on! How my noble and learned brother, and all the
rest of 'em, grubbed and muddled away as usual and tried to look as
if they hadn't heard a word of the last fact in the case or as if
they had--Oh, dear me!--nothing at all to do with it if they had
heard of it by any chance!"
Ada's colour had entirely left her, and Richard was scarcely less
pale. Nor could I wonder, judging even from my emotions, and I was
no party in the suit, that to hearts so untried and fresh it was a
shock to come into the inheritance of a protracted misery, attended
in the minds of many people with such dreadful recollections. I
had another uneasiness, in the application of the painful story to
the poor half-witted creature who had brought us there; but, to my
surprise, she seemed perfectly unconscious of that and only led the
way upstairs again, informing us with the toleration of a superior
creature for the infirmities of a common mortal that her landlord
was "a little M, you know!"
She lived at the top of the house, in a pretty large room, from
which she had a glimpse of Lincoln's Inn Hall. This seemed to have
been her principal inducement, originally, for taking up her
residence there. She could look at it, she said, in the night,
especially in the moonshine. Her room was clean, but very, very
bare. I noticed the scantiest necessaries in the way of furniture;
a few old prints from books, of Chancellors and barristers, wafered
against the wall; and some half-dozen reticles and work-bags,
"containing documents," as she informed us. There were neither
coals nor ashes in the grate, and I saw no articles of clothing
anywhere, nor any kind of food. Upon a shelf in an open cupboard
were a plate or two, a cup or two, and so forth, but all dry and
empty. There was a more affecting meaning in her pinched
appearance, I thought as I looked round, than I had understood
"Extremely honoured, I am sure," said our poor hostess with the
greatest suavity, "by this visit from the wards in Jarndyce. And
very much indebted for the omen. It is a retired situation.
Considering. I am limited as to situation. In consequence of the
necessity of attending on the Chancellor. I have lived here many
years. I pass my days in court, my evenings and my nights here. I
find the nights long, for I sleep but little and think much. That
is, of course, unavoidable, being in Chancery. I am sorry I cannot
offer chocolate. I expect a judgment shortly and shall then place
my establishment on a superior footing. At present, I don't mind
confessing to the wards in Jarndyce (in strict confidence) that I
sometimes find it difficult to keep up a genteel appearance. I
have felt the cold here. I have felt something sharper than cold.
It matters very little. Pray excuse the introduction of such mean
She partly drew aside the curtain of the long, low garret window
and called our attention to a number of bird-cages hanging there,
some containing several birds. There were larks, linnets, and
goldfinches--I should think at least twenty.
"I began to keep the little creatures," she said, "with an object
that the wards will readily comprehend. With the intention of
restoring them to liberty. When my judgment should be given. Ye-
es! They die in prison, though. Their lives, poor silly things,
are so short in comparison with Chancery proceedings that, one by
one, the whole collection has died over and over again. I doubt,
do you know, whether one of these, though they are all young, will
live to be free! Ve-ry mortifying, is it not?"
Although she sometimes asked a question, she never seemed to expect
a reply, but rambled on as if she were in the habit of doing so
when no one but herself was present.
"Indeed," she pursued, "I positively doubt sometimes, I do assure
you, whether while matters are still unsettled, and the sixth or
Great Seal still prevails, I may not one day be found lying stark
and senseless here, as I have found so many birds!"
Richard, answering what he saw in Ada's compassionate eyes, took
the opportunity of laying some money, softly and unobserved, on the
chimney-piece. We all drew nearer to the cages, feigning to
examine the birds.
"I can't allow them to sing much," said the little old lady, "for
(you'll think this curious) I find my mind confused by the idea
that they are singing while I am following the arguments in court.
And my mind requires to be so very clear, you know! Another time,
I'll tell you their names. Not at present. On a day of such good
omen, they shall sing as much as they like. In honour of youth," a
smile and curtsy, "hope," a smile and curtsy, "and beauty," a smile
and curtsy. "There! We'll let in the full light."
The birds began to stir and chirp.
"I cannot admit the air freely," said the little old lady--the room
was close, and would have been the better for it--"because the cat
you saw downstairs, called Lady Jane, is greedy for their lives.
She crouches on the parapet outside for hours and hours. I have
discovered," whispering mysteriously, "that her natural cruelty is
sharpened by a jealous fear of their regaining their liberty. In
consequence of the judgment I expect being shortly given. She is
sly and full of malice. I half believe, sometimes, that she is no
cat, but the wolf of the old saying. It is so very difficult to
keep her from the door."
Some neighbouring bells, reminding the poor soul that it was half-
past nine, did more for us in the way of bringing our visit to an
end than we could easily have done for ourselves. She hurriedly
took up her little bag of documents, which she had laid upon the
table on coming in, and asked if we were also going into court. On
our answering no, and that we would on no account detain her, she
opened the door to attend us downstairs.
"With such an omen, it is even more necessary than usual that I
should be there before the Chancellor comes in," said she, "for he
might mention my case the first thing. I have a presentiment that
he WILL mention it the first thing this morning"
She stopped to tell us in a whisper as we were going down that the
whole house was filled with strange lumber which her landlord had
bought piecemeal and had no wish to sell, in consequence of being a
little M. This was on the first floor. But she had made a
previous stoppage on the second floor and had silently pointed at a
dark door there.
"The only other lodger," she now whispered in explanation, "a law-
writer. The children in the lanes here say he has sold himself to
the devil. I don't know what he can have done with the money.
She appeared to mistrust that the lodger might hear her even there,
and repeating "Hush!" went before us on tiptoe as though even the
sound of her footsteps might reveal to him what she had said.
Passing through the shop on our way out, as we had passed through
it on our way in, we found the old man storing a quantity of
packets of waste-paper in a kind of well in the floor. He seemed
to be working hard, with the perspiration standing on his forehead,
and had a piece of chalk by him, with which, as he put each
separate package or bundle down, he made a crooked mark on the
panelling of the wall.
Richard and Ada, and Miss Jellyby, and the little old lady had gone
by him, and I was going when he touched me on the arm to stay me,
and chalked the letter J upon the wall--in a very curious manner,
beginning with the end of the letter and shaping it backward. It
was a capital letter, not a printed one, but just such a letter as
any clerk in Messrs. Kenge and Carboy's office would have made.
"Can you read it?" he asked me with a keen glance.
"Surely," said I. "It's very plain."
"What is it?"
With another glance at me, and a glance at the door, he rubbed it
out and turned an "a" in its place (not a capital letter this
time), and said, "What's that?"
I told him. He then rubbed that out and turned the letter "r," and
asked me the same question. He went on quickly until he had formed
in the same curious manner, beginning at the ends and bottoms of
the letters, the word Jarndyce, without once leaving two letters on
the wall together.
"What does that spell?" he asked me.
When I told him, he laughed. In the same odd way, yet with the
same rapidity, he then produced singly, and rubbed out singly, the
letters forming the words Bleak House. These, in some astonishment,
I also read; and he laughed again.
"Hi!" said the old man, laying aside the chalk. "I have a turn for
copying from memory, you see, miss, though I can neither read nor
He looked so disagreeable and his cat looked so wickedly at me, as
if I were a blood-relation of the birds upstairs, that I was quite
relieved by Richard's appearing at the door and saying, "Miss
Summerson, I hope you are not bargaining for the sale of your hair.
Don't be tempted. Three sacks below are quite enough for Mr. Krook!"
I lost no time in wishing Mr. Krook good morning and joining my
friends outside, where we parted with the little old lady, who gave
us her blessing with great ceremony and renewed her assurance of
yesterday in reference to her intention of settling estates on Ada
and me. Before we finally turned out of those lanes, we looked
back and saw Mr. Krook standing at his shop-door, in his
spectacles, looking after us, with his cat upon his shoulder, and
her tail sticking up on one side of his hairy cap like a tall
"Quite an adventure for a morning in London!" said Richard with a
sigh. "Ah, cousin, cousin, it's a weary word this Chancery!"
"It is to me, and has been ever since I can remember," returned
Ada. "I am grieved that I should be the enemy--as I suppose I am
--of a great number of relations and others, and that they should be
my enemies--as I suppose they are--and that we should all be
ruining one another without knowing how or why and be in constant
doubt and discord all our lives. It seems very strange, as there
must be right somewhere, that an honest judge in real earnest has
not been able to find out through all these years where it is."
"Ah, cousin!" said Richard. "Strange, indeed! All this wasteful,
wanton chess-playing IS very strange. To see that composed court
yesterday jogging on so serenely and to think of the wretchedness
of the pieces on the board gave me the headache and the heartache
both together. My head ached with wondering how it happened, if
men were neither fools nor rascals; and my heart ached to think
they could possibly be either. But at all events, Ada--I may call
"Of course you may, cousin Richard."
"At all events, Chancery will work none of its bad influences on
US. We have happily been brought together, thanks to our good
kinsman, and it can't divide us now!"
"Never, I hope, cousin Richard!" said Ada gently.
Miss Jellyby gave my arm a squeeze and me a very significant look.
I smiled in return, and we made the rest of the way back very
In half an hour after our arrival, Mrs. Jellyby appeared; and in
the course of an hour the various things necessary for breakfast
straggled one by one into the dining-room. I do not doubt that
Mrs. Jellyby had gone to bed and got up in the usual manner, but
she presented no appearance of having changed her dress. She was
greatly occupied during breakfast, for the morning's post brought a
heavy correspondence relative to Borrioboola-Gha, which would
occasion her (she said) to pass a busy day. The children tumbled
about, and notched memoranda of their accidents in their legs,
which were perfect little calendars of distress; and Peepy was lost
for an hour and a half, and brought home from Newgate market by a
policeman. The equable manner in which Mrs. Jellyby sustained both
his absence and his restoration to the family circle surprised us
She was by that time perseveringly dictating to Caddy, and Caddy
was fast relapsing into the inky condition in which we had found
her. At one o'clock an open carriage arrived for us, and a cart
for our luggage. Mrs. Jellyby charged us with many remembrances to
her good friend Mr. Jarndyce; Caddy left her desk to see us depart,
kissed me in the passage, and stood biting her pen and sobbing on
the steps; Peepy, I am happy to say, was asleep and spared the pain
of separation (I was not without misgivings that he had gone to
Newgate market in search of me); and all the other children got up
behind the barouche and fell off, and we saw them, with great
concern, scattered over the surface of Thavies Inn as we rolled out
of its precincts.
Quite at Home
The day had brightened very much, and still brightened as we went
westward. We went our way through the sunshine and the fresh air,
wondering more and more at the extent of the streets, the
brilliancy of the shops, the great traffic, and the crowds of
people whom the pleasanter weather seemed to have brought out like
many-coloured flowers. By and by we began to leave the wonderful
city and to proceed through suburbs which, of themselves, would
have made a pretty large town in my eyes; and at last we got into a
real country road again, with windmills, rick-yards, milestones,
farmers' waggons, scents of old hay, swinging signs, and horse
troughs: trees, fields, and hedge-rows. It was delightful to see
the green landscape before us and the immense metropolis behind;
and when a waggon with a train of beautiful horses, furnished with
red trappings and clear-sounding bells, came by us with its music,
I believe we could all three have sung to the bells, so cheerful
were the influences around.
"The whole road has been reminding me of my namesake Whittington,"
said Richard, "and that waggon is the finishing touch. Halloa!
What's the matter?"
We had stopped, and the waggon had stopped too. Its music changed
as the horses came to a stand, and subsided to a gentle tinkling,
except when a horse tossed his head or shook himself and sprinkled
off a little shower of bell-ringing.
"Our postilion is looking after the waggoner," said Richard, "and
the waggoner is coming back after us. Good day, friend!" The
waggoner was at our coach-door. "Why, here's an extraordinary
thing!" added Richard, looking closely at the man. "He has got
your name, Ada, in his hat!"
He had all our names in his hat. Tucked within the band were three
small notes--one addressed to Ada, one to Richard, one to me.
These the waggoner delivered to each of us respectively, reading
the name aloud first. In answer to Richard's inquiry from whom
they came, he briefly answered, "Master, sir, if you please"; and
putting on his hat again (which was like a soft bowl), cracked his
whip, re-awakened his music, and went melodiously away.
"Is that Mr. Jarndyce's waggon?" said Richard, calling to our post-
"Yes, sir," he replied. "Going to London."
We opened the notes. Each was a counterpart of the other and
contained these words in a solid, plain hand.
"I look forward, my dear, to our meeting easily and without
constraint on either side. I therefore have to propose that we
meet as old friends and take the past for granted. It will be a
relief to you possibly, and to me certainly, and so my love to you.
I had perhaps less reason to be surprised than either of my
companions, having never yet enjoyed an opportunity of thanking one
who had been my benefactor and sole earthly dependence through so
many years. I had not considered how I could thank him, my
gratitude lying too deep in my heart for that; but I now began to
consider how I could meet him without thanking him, and felt it
would be very difficult indeed.
The notes revived in Richard and Ada a general impression that they
both had, without quite knowing how they came by it, that their
cousin Jarndyce could never bear acknowledgments for any kindness
he performed and that sooner than receive any he would resort to
the most singular expedients and evasions or would even run away.
Ada dimly remembered to have heard her mother tell, when she was a
very little child, that he had once done her an act of uncommon
generosity and that on her going to his house to thank him, he
happened to see her through a window coming to the door, and
immediately escaped by the back gate, and was not heard of for
three months. This discourse led to a great deal more on the same
theme, and indeed it lasted us all day, and we talked of scarcely
anything else. If we did by any chance diverge into another
subject, we soon returned to this, and wondered what the house
would be like, and when we should get there, and whether we should
see Mr. Jarndyce as soon as we arrived or after a delay, and what
he would say to us, and what we should say to him. All of which we
wondered about, over and over again.
The roads were very heavy for the horses, but the pathway was
generally good, so we alighted and walked up all the hills, and
liked it so well that we prolonged our walk on the level ground
when we got to the top. At Barnet there were other horses waiting
for us, but as they had only just been fed, we had to wait for them
too, and got a long fresh walk over a common and an old battle-
field before the carriage came up. These delays so protracted the
journey that the short day was spent and the long night had closed
in before we came to St. Albans, near to which town Bleak House
was, we knew.
By that time we were so anxious and nervous that even Richard
confessed, as we rattled over the stones of the old street, to
feeling an irrational desire to drive back again. As to Ada and
me, whom he had wrapped up with great care, the night being sharp
and frosty, we trembled from head to foot. When we turned out of
the town, round a corner, and Richard told us that the post-boy,
who had for a long time sympathized with our heightened
expectation, was looking back and nodding, we both stood up in the
carriage (Richard holding Ada lest she should be jolted down) and
gazed round upon the open country and the starlight night for our
destination. There was a light sparkling on the top of a hill
before us, and the driver, pointing to it with his whip and crying,
"That's Bleak House!" put his horses into a canter and took us
forward at such a rate, uphill though it was, that the wheels sent
the road drift flying about our heads like spray from a water-mill.
Presently we lost the light, presently saw it, presently lost it,
presently saw it, and turned into an avenue of trees and cantered
up towards where it was beaming brightly. It was in a window of
what seemed to be an old-fashioned house with three peaks in the
roof in front and a circular sweep leading to the porch. A bell
was rung as we drew up, and amidst the sound of its deep voice in
the still air, and the distant barking of some dogs, and a gush of
light from the opened door, and the smoking and steaming of the
heated horses, and the quickened beating of our own hearts, we
alighted in no inconsiderable confusion.
"Ada, my love, Esther, my dear, you are welcome. I rejoice to see
you! Rick, if I had a hand to spare at present, I would give it
The gentleman who said these words in a clear, bright, hospitable
voice had one of his arms round Ada's waist and the other round
mine, and kissed us both in a fatherly way, and bore us across the
hall into a ruddy little room, all in a glow with a blazing fire.
Here he kissed us again, and opening his arms, made us sit down
side by side on a sofa ready drawn out near the hearth. I felt
that if we had been at all demonstrative, he would have run away in
"Now, Rick!" said he. "I have a hand at liberty. A word in
earnest is as good as a speech. I am heartily glad to see you.
You are at home. Warm yourself!"
Richard shook him by both hands with an intuitive mixture of
respect and frankness, and only saying (though with an earnestness
that rather alarmed me, I was so afraid of Mr. Jarndyce's suddenly
disappearing), "You are very kind, sir! We are very much obliged
to you!" laid aside his hat and coat and came up to the fire.
"And how did you like the ride? And how did you like Mrs. Jellyby,
my dear?" said Mr. Jarndyce to Ada.
While Ada was speaking to him in reply, I glanced (I need not say
with how much interest) at his face. It was a handsome, lively,
quick face, full of change and motion; and his hair was a silvered
iron-grey. I took him to be nearer sixty than fifty, but he was
upright, hearty, and robust. From the moment of his first speaking
to us his voice had connected itself with an association in my mind
that I could not define; but now, all at once, a something sudden
in his manner and a pleasant expression in his eyes recalled the
gentleman in the stagecoach six years ago on the memorable day of
my journey to Reading. I was certain it was he. I never was so
frightened in my life as when I made the discovery, for he caught
my glance, and appearing to read my thoughts, gave such a look at
the door that I thought we had lost him.
However, I am happy to say he remained where he was, and asked me
what I thought of Mrs. Jellyby.
"She exerts herself very much for Africa, sir," I said.
"Nobly!" returned Mr. Jarndyce. "But you answer like Ada." Whom I
had not heard. "You all think something else, I see."
"We rather thought," said I, glancing at Richard and Ada, who
entreated me with their eyes to speak, "that perhaps she was a
little unmindful of her home."
"Floored!" cried Mr. Jarndyce.
I was rather alarmed again.
"Well! I want to know your real thoughts, my dear. I may have
sent you there on purpose."
"We thought that, perhaps," said I, hesitating, "it is right to
begin with the obligations of home, sir; and that, perhaps, while
those are overlooked and neglected, no other duties can possibly be
substituted for them."
"The little Jellybys," said Richard, coming to my relief, "are
really--I can't help expressing myself strongly, sir--in a devil of
"She means well," said Mr. Jarndyce hastily. "The wind's in the
"It was in the north, sir, as we came down," observed Richard.
"My dear Rick," said Mr. Jarndyce, poking the fire, "I'll take an
oath it's either in the east or going to be. I am always conscious
of an uncomfortable sensation now and then when the wind is blowing
in the east."
"Rheumatism, sir?" said Richard.
"I dare say it is, Rick. I believe it is. And so the little Jell
--I had my doubts about 'em--are in a--oh, Lord, yes, it's
easterly!" said Mr. Jarndyce.
He had taken two or three undecided turns up and down while
uttering these broken sentences, retaining the poker in one hand
and rubbing his hair with the other, with a good-natured vexation
at once so whimsical and so lovable that I am sure we were more
delighted with him than we could possibly have expressed in any
words. He gave an arm to Ada and an arm to me, and bidding Richard
bring a candle, was leading the way out when he suddenly turned us
all back again.
"Those little Jellybys. Couldn't you--didn't you--now, if it had
rained sugar-plums, or three-cornered raspberry tarts, or anything
of that sort!" said Mr. Jarndyce.
"Oh, cousin--" Ada hastily began.
"Good, my pretty pet. I like cousin. Cousin John, perhaps, is
"Then, cousin John--" Ada laughingly began again.
"Ha, ha! Very good indeed!" said Mr. Jarndyce with great
enjoyment. "Sounds uncommonly natural. Yes, my dear?"
"It did better than that. It rained Esther."
"Aye?" said Mr. Jarndyce. "What did Esther do?"
"Why, cousin John," said Ada, clasping her hands upon his arm and
shaking her head at me across him--for I wanted her to be quiet--
"Esther was their friend directly. Esther nursed them, coaxed them
to sleep, washed and dressed them, told them stories, kept them
quiet, bought them keepsakes"--My dear girl! I had only gone out
with Peepy after he was found and given him a little, tiny horse!--
"and, cousin John, she softened poor Caroline, the eldest one, so
much and was so thoughtful for me and so amiable! No, no, I won't
be contradicted, Esther dear! You know, you know, it's true!"
The warm-hearted darling leaned across her cousin John and kissed
me, and then looking up in his face, boldly said, "At all events,
cousin John, I WILL thank you for the companion you have given me."
I felt as if she challenged him to run away. But he didn't.
"Where did you say the wind was, Rick?" asked Mr. Jarndyce.
"In the north as we came down, sir."
"You are right. There's no east in it. A mistake of mine. Come,
girls, come and see your home!"
It was one of those delightfully irregular houses where you go up
and down steps out of one room into another, and where you come
upon more rooms when you think you have seen all there are, and
where there is a bountiful provision of little halls and passages,
and where you find still older cottage-rooms in unexpected places
with lattice windows and green growth pressing through them. Mine,
which we entered first, was of this kind, with an up-and-down roof
that had more corners in it than I ever counted afterwards and a
chimney (there was a wood fire on the hearth) paved all around with
pure white tiles, in every one of which a bright miniature of the
fire was blazing. Out of this room, you went down two steps into a
charming little sitting-room looking down upon a flower-garden,
which room was henceforth to belong to Ada and me. Out of this you
went up three steps into Ada's bedroom, which had a fine broad
window commanding a beautiful view (we saw a great expanse of
darkness lying underneath the stars), to which there was a hollow
window-seat, in which, with a spring-lock, three dear Adas might
have been lost at once. Out of this room you passed into a little
gallery, with which the other best rooms (only two) communicated,
and so, by a little staircase of shallow steps with a number of
corner stairs in it, considering its length, down into the hall.
But if instead of going out at Ada's door you came back into my
room, and went out at the door by which you had entered it, and
turned up a few crooked steps that branched off in an unexpected
manner from the stairs, you lost yourself in passages, with mangles
in them, and three-cornered tables, and a native Hindu chair, which
was also a sofa, a box, and a bedstead, and looked in every form
something between a bamboo skeleton and a great bird-cage, and had
been brought from India nobody knew by whom or when. From these
you came on Richard's room, which was part library, part sitting-
room, part bedroom, and seemed indeed a comfortable compound of
many rooms. Out of that you went straight, with a little interval
of passage, to the plain room where Mr. Jarndyce slept, all the
year round, with his window open, his bedstead without any
furniture standing in the middle of the floor for more air, and his
cold bath gaping for him in a smaller room adjoining. Out of that
you came into another passage, where there were back-stairs and
where you could hear the horses being rubbed down outside the
stable and being told to "Hold up" and "Get over," as they slipped
about very much on the uneven stones. Or you might, if you came
out at another door (every room had at least two doors), go
straight down to the hall again by half-a-dozen steps and a low
archway, wondering how you got back there or had ever got out of
The furniture, old-fashioned rather than old, like the house, was
as pleasantly irregular. Ada's sleeping-room was all flowers--in
chintz and paper, in velvet, in needlework, in the brocade of two
stiff courtly chairs which stood, each attended by a little page of
a stool for greater state, on either side of the fire-place. Our
sitting-room was green and had framed and glazed upon the walls
numbers of surprising and surprised birds, staring out of pictures
at a real trout in a case, as brown and shining as if it had been
served with gravy; at the death of Captain Cook; and at the whole
process of preparing tea in China, as depicted by Chinese artists.
In my room there were oval engravings of the months--ladies
haymaking in short waists and large hats tied under the chin, for
June; smooth-legged noblemen pointing with cocked-hats to village
steeples, for October. Half-length portraits in crayons abounded
all through the house, but were so dispersed that I found the
brother of a youthful officer of mine in the china-closet and the
grey old age of my pretty young bride, with a flower in her bodice,
in the breakfast-room. As substitutes, I had four angels, of Queen
Anne's reign, taking a complacent gentleman to heaven, in festoons,
with some difficulty; and a composition in needlework representing
fruit, a kettle, and an alphabet. All the movables, from the
wardrobes to the chairs and tables, hangings, glasses, even to the
pincushions and scent-bottles on the dressing-tables, displayed the
same quaint variety. They agreed in nothing but their perfect
neatness, their display of the whitest linen, and their storing-up,
wheresoever the existence of a drawer, small or large, rendered it
possible, of quantities of rose-leaves and sweet lavender. Such,
with its illuminated windows, softened here and there by shadows of
curtains, shining out upon the starlight night; with its light, and
warmth, and comfort; with its hospitable jingle, at a distance, of
preparations for dinner; with the face of its generous master
brightening everything we saw; and just wind enough without to
sound a low accompaniment to everything we heard, were our first
impressions of Bleak House.
"I am glad you like it," said Mr. Jarndyce when he had brought us
round again to Ada's sitting-room. "It makes no pretensions, but
it is a comfortable little place, I hope, and will be more so with
such bright young looks in it. You have barely half an hour before
dinner. There's no one here but the finest creature upon earth--a
"More children, Esther!" said Ada.
"I don't mean literally a child," pursued Mr. Jarndyce; "not a
child in years. He is grown up--he is at least as old as I am--but
in simplicity, and freshness, and enthusiasm, and a fine guileless
inaptitude for all worldly affairs, he is a perfect child."
We felt that he must be very interesting.
"He knows Mrs. Jellyby," said Mr. Jarndyce. "He is a musical man,
an amateur, but might have been a professional. He is an artist
too, an amateur, but might have been a professional. He is a man
of attainments and of captivating manners. He has been unfortunate
in his affairs, and unfortunate in his pursuits, and unfortunate in
his family; but he don't care--he's a child!"
"Did you imply that he has children of his own, sir?" inquired
"Yes, Rick! Half-a-dozen. More! Nearer a dozen, I should think.
But he has never looked after them. How could he? He wanted
somebody to look after HIM. He is a child, you know!" said Mr.
"And have the children looked after themselves at all, sir?"
"Why, just as you may suppose," said Mr. Jarndyce, his countenance
suddenly falling. "It is said that the children of the very poor
are not brought up, but dragged up. Harold Skimpole's children
have tumbled up somehow or other. The wind's getting round again,
I am afraid. I feel it rather!"
Richard observed that the situation was exposed on a sharp night.
"It IS exposed," said Mr. Jarndyce. "No doubt that's the cause.
Bleak House has an exposed sound. But you are coming my way. Come
Our luggage having arrived and being all at hand, I was dressed in
a few minutes and engaged in putting my worldly goods away when a
maid (not the one in attendance upon Ada, but another, whom I had
not seen) brought a basket into my room with two bunches of keys in
it, all labelled.
"For you, miss, if you please," said she.
"For me?" said I.
"The housekeeping keys, miss."
I showed my surprise, for she added with some little surprise on
her own part, "I was told to bring them as soon as you was alone,
miss. Miss Summerson, if I don't deceive myself?"
"Yes," said I. "That is my name."
"The large bunch is the housekeeping, and the little bunch is the
cellars, miss. Any time you was pleased to appoint to-morrow
morning, I was to show you the presses and things they belong to."
I said I would be ready at half-past six, and after she was gone,
stood looking at the basket, quite lost in the magnitude of my
trust. Ada found me thus and had such a delightful confidence in
me when I showed her the keys and told her about them that it would
have been insensibility and ingratitude not to feel encouraged. I
knew, to be sure, that it was the dear girl's kindness, but I liked
to be so pleasantly cheated.
When we went downstairs, we were presented to Mr. Skimpole, who was
standing before the fire telling Richard how fond he used to be, in
his school-time, of football. He was a little bright creature with
a rather large head, but a delicate face and a sweet voice, and
there was a perfect charm in him. All he said was so free from
effort and spontaneous and was said with such a captivating gaiety
that it was fascinating to hear him talk. Being of a more slender
figure than Mr. Jarndyce and having a richer complexion, with
browner hair, he looked younger. Indeed, he had more the
appearance in all respects of a damaged young man than a well-
preserved elderly one. There was an easy negligence in his manner
and even in his dress (his hair carelessly disposed, and his
neckkerchief loose and flowing, as I have seen artists paint their
own portraits) which I could not separate from the idea of a
romantic youth who had undergone some unique process of
depreciation. It struck me as being not at all like the manner or
appearance of a man who had advanced in life by the usual road of
years, cares, and experiences.
I gathered from the conversation that Mr. Skimpole had been
educated for the medical profession and had once lived, in his
professional capacity, in the household of a German prince. He
told us, however, that as he had always been a mere child in point
of weights and measures and had never known anything about them
(except that they disgusted him), he had never been able to
prescribe with the requisite accuracy of detail. In fact, he said,
he had no head for detail. And he told us, with great humour, that
when he was wanted to bleed the prince or physic any of his people,
he was generally found lying on his back in bed, reading the
newspapers or making fancy-sketches in pencil, and couldn't come.
The prince, at last, objecting to this, "in which," said Mr.
Skimpole, in the frankest manner, "he was perfectly right," the
engagement terminated, and Mr. Skimpole having (as he added with
delightful gaiety) "nothing to live upon but love, fell in love,
and married, and surrounded himself with rosy cheeks." His good
friend Jarndyce and some other of his good friends then helped him,
in quicker or slower succession, to several openings in life, but
to no purpose, for he must confess to two of the oldest infirmities
in the world: one was that he had no idea of time, the other that
he had no idea of money. In consequence of which he never kept an
appointment, never could transact any business, and never knew the
value of anything! Well! So he had got on in life, and here he
was! He was very fond of reading the papers, very fond of making
fancy-sketches with a pencil, very fond of nature, very fond of
art. All he asked of society was to let him live. THAT wasn't
much. His wants were few. Give him the papers, conversation,
music, mutton, coffee, landscape, fruit in the season, a few sheets
of Bristol-board, and a little claret, and he asked no more. He
was a mere child in the world, but he didn't cry for the moon. He
said to the world, "Go your several ways in peace! Wear red coats,
blue coats, lawn sleeves; put pens behind your ears, wear aprons;
go after glory, holiness, commerce, trade, any object you prefer;
only--let Harold Skimpole live!"
All this and a great deal more he told us, not only with the utmost
brilliancy and enjoyment, but with a certain vivacious candour--
speaking of himself as if he were not at all his own affair, as if
Skimpole were a third person, as if he knew that Skimpole had his
singularities but still had his claims too, which were the general
business of the community and must not be slighted. He was quite
enchanting. If I felt at all confused at that early time in
endeavouring to reconcile anything he said with anything I had
thought about the duties and accountabilities of life (which I am
far from sure of), I was confused by not exactly understanding why
he was free of them. That he WAS free of them, I scarcely doubted;
he was so very clear about it himself.
"I covet nothing," said Mr. Skimpole in the same light way.
"Possession is nothing to me. Here is my friend Jarndyce's
excellent house. I feel obliged to him for possessing it. I can
sketch it and alter it. I can set it to music. When I am here, I
have sufficient possession of it and have neither trouble, cost,
nor responsibility. My steward's name, in short, is Jarndyce, and
he can't cheat me. We have been mentioning Mrs. Jellyby. There is
a bright-eyed woman, of a strong will and immense power of business
detail, who throws herself into objects with surprising ardour! I
don't regret that I have not a strong will and an immense power of
business detail to throw myself into objects with surprising
ardour. I can admire her without envy. I can sympathize with the
objects. I can dream of them. I can lie down on the grass--in
fine weather--and float along an African river, embracing all the
natives I meet, as sensible of the deep silence and sketching the
dense overhanging tropical growth as accurately as if I were there.
I don't know that it's of any direct use my doing so, but it's all
I can do, and I do it thoroughly. Then, for heaven's sake, having
Harold Skimpole, a confiding child, petitioning you, the world, an
agglomeration of practical people of business habits, to let him
live and admire the human family, do it somehow or other, like good
souls, and suffer him to ride his rocking-horse!"
It was plain enough that Mr. Jarndyce had not been neglectful of
the adjuration. Mr. Skimpole's general position there would have
rendered it so without the addition of what he presently said.
"It's only you, the generous creatures, whom I envy," said Mr.
Skimpole, addressing us, his new friends, in an impersonal manner.
"I envy you your power of doing what you do. It is what I should
revel in myself. I don't feel any vulgar gratitude to you. I
almost feel as if YOU ought to be grateful to ME for giving you the
opportunity of enjoying the luxury of generosity. I know you like
it. For anything I can tell, I may have come into the world
expressly for the purpose of increasing your stock of happiness. I
may have been born to be a benefactor to you by sometimes giving
you an opportunity of assisting me in my little perplexities. Why
should I regret my incapacity for details and worldly affairs when
it leads to such pleasant consequences? I don't regret it
Of all his playful speeches (playful, yet always fully meaning what
they expressed) none seemed to be more to the taste of Mr. Jarndyce
than this. I had often new temptations, afterwards, to wonder
whether it was really singular, or only singular to me, that he,
who was probably the most grateful of mankind upon the least
occasion, should so desire to escape the gratitude of others.
We were all enchanted. I felt it a merited tribute to the engaging
qualities of Ada and Richard that Mr. Skimpole, seeing them for the
first time, should he so unreserved and should lay himself out to
be so exquisitely agreeable. They (and especially Richard) were
naturally pleased, for similar reasons, and considered it no common
privilege to be so freely confided in by such an attractive man.
The more we listened, the more gaily Mr. Skimpole talked. And what
with his fine hilarious manner and his engaging candour and his
genial way of lightly tossing his own weaknesses about, as if he
had said, "I am a child, you know! You are designing people
compared with me" (he really made me consider myself in that light)
"but I am gay and innocent; forget your worldly arts and play with
me!" the effect was absolutely dazzling.
He was so full of feeling too and had such a delicate sentiment for
what was beautiful or tender that he could have won a heart by that
alone. In the evening, when I was preparing to make tea and Ada
was touching the piano in the adjoining room and softly humming a
tune to her cousin Richard, which they had happened to mention, he
came and sat down on the sofa near me and so spoke of Ada that I
almost loved him.
"She is like the morning," he said. "With that golden hair, those
blue eyes, and that fresh bloom on her cheek, she is like the
summer morning. The birds here will mistake her for it. We will
not call such a lovely young creature as that, who is a joy to all
mankind, an orphan. She is the child of the universe."
Mr. Jarndyce, I found, was standing near us with his hands behind
him and an attentive smile upon his face.
"The universe," he observed, "makes rather an indifferent parent, I
"Oh! I don't know!" cried Mr. Skimpole buoyantly.
"I think I do know," said Mr. Jarndyce.
"Well!" cried Mr. Skimpole. "You know the world (which in your
sense is the universe), and I know nothing of it, so you shall have
your way. But if I had mine," glancing at the cousins, "there
should be no brambles of sordid realities in such a path as that.
It should be strewn with roses; it should lie through bowers, where
there was no spring, autumn, nor winter, but perpetual summer. Age
or change should never wither it. The base word money should never
be breathed near it!"
Mr. Jarndyce patted him on the head with a smile, as if he had been
really a child, and passing a step or two on, and stopping a
moment, glanced at the young cousins. His look was thoughtful, but
had a benignant expression in it which I often (how often!) saw
again, which has long been engraven on my heart. The room in which
they were, communicating with that in which he stood, was only
lighted by the fire. Ada sat at the piano; Richard stood beside
her, bending down. Upon the wall, their shadows blended together,
surrounded by strange forms, not without a ghostly motion caught
from the unsteady fire, though reflecting from motionless objects.
Ada touched the notes so softly and sang so low that the wind,
sighing away to the distant hills, was as audible as the music.
The mystery of the future and the little clue afforded to it by the
voice of the present seemed expressed in the whole picture.
But it is not to recall this fancy, well as I remember it, that I
recall the scene. First, I was not quite unconscious of the
contrast in respect of meaning and intention between the silent
look directed that way and the flow of words that had preceded it.
Secondly, though Mr. Jarndyce's glance as he withdrew it rested for
but a moment on me, I felt as if in that moment he confided to me--
and knew that he confided to me and that I received the confidence
--his hope that Ada and Richard might one day enter on a dearer
Mr. Skimpole could play on the piano and the violoncello, and he
was a composer--had composed half an opera once, but got tired of
it--and played what he composed with taste. After tea we had quite
a little concert, in which Richard--who was enthralled by Ada's
singing and told me that she seemed to know all the songs that ever
were written--and Mr. Jarndyce, and I were the audience. After a
little while I missed first Mr. Skimpole and afterwards Richard,
and while I was thinking how could Richard stay away so long and
lose so much, the maid who had given me the keys looked in at the
door, saying, "If you please, miss, could you spare a minute?"
When I was shut out with her in the hall, she said, holding up her
hands, "Oh, if you please, miss, Mr. Carstone says would you come
upstairs to Mr. Skimpole's room. He has been took, miss!"
"Took?" said I.
"Took, miss. Sudden," said the maid.
I was apprehensive that his illness might be of a dangerous kind,
but of course I begged her to be quiet and not disturb any one and
collected myself, as I followed her quickly upstairs, sufficiently
to consider what were the best remedies to be applied if it should
prove to be a fit. She threw open a door and I went into a
chamber, where, to my unspeakable surprise, instead of finding Mr.
Skimpole stretched upon the bed or prostrate on the floor, I found
him standing before the fire smiling at Richard, while Richard,
with a face of great embarrassment, looked at a person on the sofa,
in a white great-coat, with smooth hair upon his head and not much
of it, which he was wiping smoother and making less of with a
"Miss Summerson," said Richard hurriedly, "I am glad you are come.
You will be able to advise us. Our friend Mr. Skimpole--don't be
alarmed!--is arrested for debt."
"And really, my dear Miss Summerson," said Mr. Skimpole with his
agreeable candour, "I never was in a situation in which that
excellent sense and quiet habit of method and usefulness, which
anybody must observe in you who has the happiness of being a
quarter of an hour in your society, was more needed."
The person on the sofa, who appeared to have a cold in his head,
gave such a very loud snort that he startled me.
"Are you arrested for much, sir?" I inquired of Mr. Skimpole.
"My dear Miss Summerson," said he, shaking his head pleasantly, "I
don't know. Some pounds, odd shillings, and halfpence, I think,
"It's twenty-four pound, sixteen, and sevenpence ha'penny,"
observed the stranger. "That's wot it is."
"And it sounds--somehow it sounds," said Mr. Skimpole, "like a
The strange man said nothing but made another snort. It was such a
powerful one that it seemed quite to lift him out of his seat.
"Mr. Skimpole," said Richard to me, "has a delicacy in applying to
my cousin Jarndyce because he has lately--I think, sir, I
understood you that you had lately--"
"Oh, yes!" returned Mr. Skimpole, smiling. "Though I forgot how
much it was and when it was. Jarndyce would readily do it again,
but I have the epicure-like feeling that I would prefer a novelty
in help, that I would rather," and he looked at Richard and me,
"develop generosity in a new soil and in a new form of flower."
"What do you think will be best, Miss Summerson?" said Richard,
I ventured to inquire, generally, before replying, what would
happen if the money were not produced.
"Jail," said the strange man, coolly putting his handkerchief into
his hat, which was on the floor at his feet. "Or Coavinses."
"May I ask, sir, what is--"
"Coavinses?" said the strange man. "A 'ouse."
Richard and I looked at one another again. It was a most singular
thing that the arrest was our embarrassment and not Mr. Skimpole's.
He observed us with a genial interest, but there seemed, if I may
venture on such a contradiction, nothing selfish in it. He had
entirely washed his hands of the difficulty, and it had become
"I thought," he suggested, as if good-naturedly to help us out,
"that being parties in a Chancery suit concerning (as people say) a
large amount of property, Mr. Richard or his beautiful cousin, or
both, could sign something, or make over something, or give some
sort of undertaking, or pledge, or bond? I don't know what the
business name of it may be, but I suppose there is some instrument
within their power that would settle this?"
"Not a bit on it," said the strange man.
"Really?" returned Mr. Skimpole. "That seems odd, now, to one who
is no judge of these things!"
"Odd or even," said the stranger gruffly, "I tell you, not a bit on
"Keep your temper, my good fellow, keep your temper!" Mr. Skimpole
gently reasoned with him as he made a little drawing of his head on
the fly-leaf of a book. "Don't be ruffled by your occupation. We
can separate you from your office; we can separate the individual
from the pursuit. We are not so prejudiced as to suppose that in
private life you are otherwise than a very estimable man, with a
great deal of poetry in your nature, of which you may not be
The stranger only answered with another violent snort, whether in
acceptance of the poetry-tribute or in disdainful rejection of it,
he did not express to me.
"Now, my dear Miss Summerson, and my dear Mr. Richard," said Mr.
Skimpole gaily, innocently, and confidingly as he looked at his
drawing with his head on one side, "here you see me utterly
incapable of helping myself, and entirely in your hands! I only
ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not
deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies!"
"My dear Miss Summerson," said Richard in a whisper, "I have ten
pounds that I received from Mr. Kenge. I must try what that will
I possessed fifteen pounds, odd shillings, which I had saved from
my quarterly allowance during several years. I had always thought
that some accident might happen which would throw me suddenly,
without any relation or any property, on the world and had always
tried to keep some little money by me that I might not be quite
penniless. I told Richard of my having this little store and
having no present need of it, and I asked him delicately to inform
Mr. Skimpole, while I should be gone to fetch it, that we would
have the pleasure of paying his debt.
When I came back, Mr. Skimpole kissed my hand and seemed quite
touched. Not on his own account (I was again aware of that
perplexing and extraordinary contradiction), but on ours, as if
personal considerations were impossible with him and the
contemplation of our happiness alone affected him. Richard,
begging me, for the greater grace of the transaction, as he said,
to settle with Coavinses (as Mr. Skimpole now jocularly called
him), I counted out the money and received the necessary
acknowledgment. This, too, delighted Mr. Skimpole.
His compliments were so delicately administered that I blushed less
than I might have done and settled with the stranger in the white
coat without making any mistakes. He put the money in his pocket
and shortly said, "Well, then, I'll wish you a good evening, miss.
"My friend," said Mr. Skimpole, standing with his back to the fire
after giving up the sketch when it was half finished, "I should
like to ask you something, without offence."
I think the reply was, "Cut away, then!"
"Did you know this morning, now, that you were coming out on this
errand?" said Mr. Skimpole.
"Know'd it yes'day aft'noon at tea-time," said Coavinses.
"It didn't affect your appetite? Didn't make you at all uneasy?"
"Not a bit," said Coavinses. "I know'd if you wos missed to-day,
you wouldn't be missed to-morrow. A day makes no such odds."
"But when you came down here," proceeded Mr. Skimpole, "it was a
fine day. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, the lights
and shadows were passing across the fields, the birds were
"Nobody said they warn't, in MY hearing," returned Coavinses.
"No," observed Mr. Skimpole. "But what did you think upon the
"Wot do you mean?" growled Coavinses with an appearance of strong
resentment. "Think! I've got enough to do, and little enough to
get for it without thinking. Thinking!" (with profound contempt).
"Then you didn't think, at all events," proceeded Mr. Skimpole, "to
this effect: 'Harold Skimpole loves to see the sun shine, loves to
hear the wind blow, loves to watch the changing lights and shadows,
loves to hear the birds, those choristers in Nature's great
cathedral. And does it seem to me that I am about to deprive
Harold Skimpole of his share in such possessions, which are his
only birthright!' You thought nothing to that effect?"
"I--certainly--did--NOT," said Coavinses, whose doggedness in
utterly renouncing the idea was of that intense kind that he could
only give adequate expression to it by putting a long interval
between each word, and accompanying the last with a jerk that might
have dislocated his neck.
"Very odd and very curious, the mental process is, in you men of
business!" said Mr. Skimpole thoughtfully. "Thank you, my friend.
As our absence had been long enough already to seem strange
downstairs, I returned at once and found Ada sitting at work by the
fireside talking to her cousin John. Mr. Skimpole presently
appeared, and Richard shortly after him. I was sufficiently
engaged during the remainder of the evening in taking my first
lesson in backgammon from Mr. Jarndyce, who was very fond of the
game and from whom I wished of course to learn it as quickly as I
could in order that I might be of the very small use of being able
to play when he had no better adversary. But I thought,
occasionally, when Mr. Skimpole played some fragments of his own
compositions or when, both at the piano and the violoncello, and at
our table, he preserved with an absence of all effort his
delightful spirits and his easy flow of conversation, that Richard
and I seemed to retain the transferred impression of having been
arrested since dinner and that it was very curious altogether.
It was late before we separated, for when Ada was going at eleven
o'clock, Mr. Skimpole went to the piano and rattled hilariously
that the best of all ways to lengthen our days was to steal a few
hours from night, my dear! It was past twelve before he took his
candle and his radiant face out of the room, and I think he might
have kept us there, if he had seen fit, until daybreak. Ada and
Richard were lingering for a few moments by the fire, wondering
whether Mrs. Jellyby had yet finished her dictation for the day,
when Mr. Jarndyce, who had been out of the room, returned.
"Oh, dear me, what's this, what's this!" he said, rubbing his head
and walking about with his good-humoured vexation. "What's this
they tell me? Rick, my boy, Esther, my dear, what have you been
doing? Why did you do it? How could you do it? How much apiece
was it? The wind's round again. I feel it all over me!"
We neither of us quite knew what to answer.
"Come, Rick, come! I must settle this before I sleep. How much
are you out of pocket? You two made the money up, you know! Why
did you? How could you? Oh, Lord, yes, it's due east--must be!"
"Really, sir," said Richard, "I don't think it would be honourable
in me to tell you. Mr. Skimpole relied upon us--"
"Lord bless you, my dear boy! He relies upon everybody!" said Mr.
Jarndyce, giving his head a great rub and stopping short.
"Everybody! And he'll be in the same scrape again next week!" said
Mr. Jarndyce, walking again at a great pace, with a candle in his
hand that had gone out. "He's always in the same scrape. He was
born in the same scrape. I verily believe that the announcement in
the newspapers when his mother was confined was 'On Tuesday last,
at her residence in Botheration Buildings, Mrs. Skimpole of a son
Richard laughed heartily but added, "Still, sir, I don't want to
shake his confidence or to break his confidence, and if I submit to
your better knowledge again, that I ought to keep his secret, I
hope you will consider before you press me any more. Of course, if
you do press me, sir, I shall know I am wrong and will tell you."
"Well!" cried Mr. Jarndyce, stopping again, and making several
absent endeavours to put his candlestick in his pocket. "I--here!
Take it away, my dear. I don't know what I am about with it; it's
all the wind--invariably has that effect--I won't press you, Rick;
you may be right. But really--to get hold of you and Esther--and
to squeeze you like a couple of tender young Saint Michael's
oranges! It'll blow a gale in the course of the night!"
He was now alternately putting his hands into his pockets as if he
were going to keep them there a long time, and taking them out
again and vehemently rubbing them all over his head.
I ventured to take this opportunity of hinting that Mr. Skimpole,
being in all such matters quite a child--
"Eh, my dear?" said Mr. Jarndyce, catching at the word.
"Being quite a child, sir," said I, "and so different from other
"You are right!" said Mr. Jarndyce, brightening. "Your woman's wit
hits the mark. He is a child--an absolute child. I told you he
was a child, you know, when I first mentioned him."
Certainly! Certainly! we said.
"And he IS a child. Now, isn't he?" asked Mr. Jarndyce,
brightening more and more.
He was indeed, we said.
"When you come to think of it, it's the height of childishness in
you--I mean me--" said Mr. Jarndyce, "to regard him for a moment as
a man. You can't make HIM responsible. The idea of Harold
Skimpole with designs or plans, or knowledge of consequences! Ha,
It was so delicious to see the clouds about his bright face
clearing, and to see him so heartily pleased, and to know, as it
was impossible not to know, that the source of his pleasure was the
goodness which was tortured by condemning, or mistrusting, or
secretly accusing any one, that I saw the tears in Ada's eyes,
while she echoed his laugh, and felt them in my own.
"Why, what a cod's head and shoulders I am," said Mr. Jarndyce, "to
require reminding of it! The whole business shows the child from
beginning to end. Nobody but a child would have thought of
singling YOU two out for parties in the affair! Nobody but a child
would have thought of YOUR having the money! If it had been a
thousand pounds, it would have been just the same!" said Mr.
Jarndyce with his whole face in a glow.
We all confirmed it from our night's experience.
"To be sure, to be sure!" said Mr. Jarndyce. "However, Rick,
Esther, and you too, Ada, for I don't know that even your little
purse is safe from his inexperience--I must have a promise all
round that nothing of this sort shall ever be done any more. No
advances! Not even sixpences."
We all promised faithfully, Richard with a merry glance at me
touching his pocket as if to remind me that there was no danger of
"As to Skimpole," said Mr. Jarndyce, "a habitable doll's house with
good board and a few tin people to get into debt with and borrow
money of would set the boy up in life. He is in a child's sleep by
this time, I suppose; it's time I should take my craftier head to
my more worldly pillow. Good night, my dears. God bless you!"
He peeped in again, with a smiling face, before we had lighted our
candles, and said, "Oh! I have been looking at the weather-cock. I
find it was a false alarm about the wind. It's in the south!" And
went away singing to himself.
Ada and I agreed, as we talked together for a little while upstairs,
that this caprice about the wind was a fiction and that he used the
pretence to account for any disappointment he could not conceal,
rather than he would blame the real cause of it or disparage or
depreciate any one. We thought this very characteristic of his
eccentric gentleness and of the difference between him and those
petulant people who make the weather and the winds (particularly
that unlucky wind which he had chosen for such a different purpose)
the stalking-horses of their splenetic and gloomy humours.
Indeed, so much affection for him had been added in this one
evening to my gratitude that I hoped I already began to understand
him through that mingled feeling. Any seeming inconsistencies in
Mr. Skimpole or in Mrs. Jellyby I could not expect to be able to
reconcile, having so little experience or practical knowledge.
Neither did I try, for my thoughts were busy when I was alone, with
Ada and Richard and with the confidence I had seemed to receive
concerning them. My fancy, made a little wild by the wind perhaps,
would not consent to be all unselfish, either, though I would have
persuaded it to be so if I could. It wandered back to my
godmother's house and came along the intervening track, raising up
shadowy speculations which had sometimes trembled there in the dark
as to what knowledge Mr. Jarndyce had of my earliest history--even
as to the possibility of his being my father, though that idle
dream was quite gone now.
It was all gone now, I remembered, getting up from the fire. It was
not for me to muse over bygones, but to act with a cheerful spirit
and a grateful heart. So I said to myself, "Esther, Esther, Esther!
Duty, my dear!" and gave my little basket of housekeeping keys such
a shake that they sounded like little bells and rang me hopefully to
The Ghost's Walk
While Esther sleeps, and while Esther wakes, it is still wet weather
down at the place in Lincolnshire. The rain is ever falling--drip,
drip, drip--by day and night upon the broad flagged terrace-
pavement, the Ghost's Walk. The weather is so very bad down in
Lincolnshire that the liveliest imagination can scarcely apprehend
its ever being fine again. Not that there is any superabundant life
of imagination on the spot, for Sir Leicester is not here (and,
truly, even if he were, would not do much for it in that
particular), but is in Paris with my Lady; and solitude, with dusky
wings, sits brooding upon Chesney Wold.
There may be some motions of fancy among the lower animals at
Chesney Wold. The horses in the stables--the long stables in a
barren, red-brick court-yard, where there is a great bell in a
turret, and a clock with a large face, which the pigeons who live
near it and who love to perch upon its shoulders seem to be always
consulting--THEY may contemplate some mental pictures of fine
weather on occasions, and may be better artists at them than the
grooms. The old roan, so famous for cross-country work, turning his
large eyeball to the grated window near his rack, may remember the
fresh leaves that glisten there at other times and the scents that
stream in, and may have a fine run with the hounds, while the human
helper, clearing out the next stall, never stirs beyond his
pitchfork and birch-broom. The grey, whose place is opposite the
door and who with an impatient rattle of his halter pricks his ears
and turns his head so wistfully when it is opened, and to whom the
opener says, "Woa grey, then, steady! Noabody wants you to-day!"
may know it quite as well as the man. The whole seemingly
monotonous and uncompanionable half-dozen, stabled together, may
pass the long wet hours when the door is shut in livelier
communication than is held in the servants' hall or at the Dedlock
Arms, or may even beguile the time by improving (perhaps corrupting)
the pony in the loose-box in the corner.
So the mastiff, dozing in his kennel in the court-yard with his
large head on his paws, may think of the hot sunshine when the
shadows of the stable-buildings tire his patience out by changing
and leave him at one time of the day no broader refuge than the
shadow of his own house, where he sits on end, panting and growling
short, and very much wanting something to worry besides himself and
his chain. So now, half-waking and all-winking, he may recall the
house full of company, the coach-houses full of vehicles, the
stables full of horses, and the out-buildings full of attendants
upon horses, until he is undecided about the present and comes forth
to see how it is. Then, with that impatient shake of himself, he
may growl in the spirit, "Rain, rain, rain! Nothing but rain--and
no family here!" as he goes in again and lies down with a gloomy
So with the dogs in the kennel-buildings across the park, who have
their restless fits and whose doleful voices when the wind has been
very obstinate have even made it known in the house itself--
upstairs, downstairs, and in my Lady's chamber. They may hunt the
whole country-side, while the raindrops are pattering round their
inactivity. So the rabbits with their self-betraying tails,
frisking in and out of holes at roots of trees, may be lively with
ideas of the breezy days when their ears are blown about or of those
seasons of interest when there are sweet young plants to gnaw. The
turkey in the poultry-yard, always troubled with a class-grievance
(probably Christmas), may be reminiscent of that summer morning
wrongfully taken from him when he got into the lane among the felled
trees, where there was a barn and barley. The discontented goose,
who stoops to pass under the old gateway, twenty feet high, may
gabble out, if we only knew it, a waddling preference for weather
when the gateway casts its shadow on the ground.
Be this as it may, there is not much fancy otherwise stirring at
Chesney Wold. If there be a little at any odd moment, it goes,
like a little noise in that old echoing place, a long way and
usually leads off to ghosts and mystery.
It has rained so hard and rained so long down in Lincolnshire that
Mrs. Rouncewell, the old housekeeper at Chesney Wold, has several
times taken off her spectacles and cleaned them to make certain
that the drops were not upon the glasses. Mrs. Rouncewell might
have been sufficiently assured by hearing the rain, but that she is
rather deaf, which nothing will induce her to believe. She is a
fine old lady, handsome, stately, wonderfully neat, and has such a
back and such a stomacher that if her stays should turn out when
she dies to have been a broad old-fashioned family fire-grate,
nobody who knows her would have cause to be surprised. Weather
affects Mrs. Rouncewell little. The house is there in all
weathers, and the house, as she expresses it, "is what she looks
at." She sits in her room (in a side passage on the ground floor,
with an arched window commanding a smooth quadrangle, adorned at
regular intervals with smooth round trees and smooth round blocks
of stone, as if the trees were going to play at bowls with the
stones), and the whole house reposes on her mind. She can open it
on occasion and be busy and fluttered, but it is shut up now and
lies on the breadth of Mrs. Rouncewell's iron-bound bosom in a
It is the next difficult thing to an impossibility to imagine
Chesney Wold without Mrs. Rouncewell, but she has only been here
fifty years. Ask her how long, this rainy day, and she shall
answer "fifty year, three months, and a fortnight, by the blessing
of heaven, if I live till Tuesday." Mr. Rouncewell died some time
before the decease of the pretty fashion of pig-tails, and modestly
hid his own (if he took it with him) in a corner of the churchyard
in the park near the mouldy porch. He was born in the market-town,
and so was his young widow. Her progress in the family began in
the time of the last Sir Leicester and originated in the still-room.
The present representative of the Dedlocks is an excellent master.
He supposes all his dependents to be utterly bereft of individual
characters, intentions, or opinions, and is persuaded that he was
born to supersede the necessity of their having any. If he were to
make a discovery to the contrary, he would be simply stunned--would
never recover himself, most likely, except to gasp and die. But he
is an excellent master still, holding it a part of his state to be
so. He has a great liking for Mrs. Rouncewell; he says she is a
most respectable, creditable woman. He always shakes hands with
her when he comes down to Chesney Wold and when he goes away; and
if he were very ill, or if he were knocked down by accident, or run
over, or placed in any situation expressive of a Dedlock at a
disadvantage, he would say if he could speak, "Leave me, and send
Mrs. Rouncewell here!" feeling his dignity, at such a pass, safer
with her than with anybody else.
Mrs. Rouncewell has known trouble. She has had two sons, of whom
the younger ran wild, and went for a soldier, and never came back.
Even to this hour, Mrs. Rouncewell's calm hands lose their
composure when she speaks of him, and unfolding themselves from her
stomacher, hover about her in an agitated manner as she says what a
likely lad, what a fine lad, what a gay, good-humoured, clever lad
he was! Her second son would have been provided for at Chesney
Wold and would have been made steward in due season, but he took,
when he was a schoolboy, to constructing steam-engines out of
saucepans and setting birds to draw their own water with the least
possible amount of labour, so assisting them with artful
contrivance of hydraulic pressure that a thirsty canary had only,
in a literal sense, to put his shoulder to the wheel and the job
was done. This propensity gave Mrs. Rouncewell great uneasiness.
She felt it with a mother's anguish to be a move in the Wat Tyler
direction, well knowing that Sir Leicester had that general
impression of an aptitude for any art to which smoke and a tall
chimney might be considered essential. But the doomed young rebel
(otherwise a mild youth, and very persevering), showing no sign of
grace as he got older but, on the contrary, constructing a model of
a power-loom, she was fain, with many tears, to mention his
backslidings to the baronet. "Mrs. Rouncewell," said Sir
Leicester, "I can never consent to argue, as you know, with any one
on any subject. You had better get rid of your boy; you had better
get him into some Works. The iron country farther north is, I
suppose, the congenial direction for a boy with these tendencies."
Farther north he went, and farther north he grew up; and if Sir
Leicester Dedlock ever saw him when he came to Chesney Wold to
visit his mother, or ever thought of him afterwards, it is certain
that he only regarded him as one of a body of some odd thousand
conspirators, swarthy and grim, who were in the habit of turning
out by torchlight two or three nights in the week for unlawful
Nevertheless, Mrs. Rouncewell's son has, in the course of nature
and art, grown up, and established himself, and married, and called
unto him Mrs. Rouncewell's grandson, who, being out of his
apprenticeship, and home from a journey in far countries, whither
he was sent to enlarge his knowledge and complete his preparations
for the venture of this life, stands leaning against the chimney-
piece this very day in Mrs. Rouncewell's room at Chesney Wold.
"And, again and again, I am glad to see you, Watt! And, once
again, I am glad to see you, Watt!" says Mrs. Rouncewell. "You are
a fine young fellow. You are like your poor uncle George. Ah!"
Mrs. Rouncewell's hands unquiet, as usual, on this reference.
"They say I am like my father, grandmother."
"Like him, also, my dear--but most like your poor uncle George!
And your dear father." Mrs. Rouncewell folds her hands again. "He
"Thriving, grandmother, in every way."
"I am thankful!" Mrs. Rouncewell is fond of her son but has a
plaintive feeling towards him, much as if he were a very honourable
soldier who had gone over to the enemy.
"He is quite happy?" says she.
"I am thankful! So he has brought you up to follow in his ways and
has sent you into foreign countries and the like? Well, he knows
best. There may be a world beyond Chesney Wold that I don't
understand. Though I am not young, either. And I have seen a
quantity of good company too!"
"Grandmother," says the young man, changing the subject, "what a
very pretty girl that was I found with you just now. You called
"Yes, child. She is daughter of a widow in the village. Maids are
so hard to teach, now-a-days, that I have put her about me young.
She's an apt scholar and will do well. She shows the house
already, very pretty. She lives with me at my table here."
"I hope I have not driven her away?"
"She supposes we have family affairs to speak about, I dare say.
She is very modest. It is a fine quality in a young woman. And
scarcer," says Mrs. Rouncewell, expanding her stomacher to its
utmost limits, "than it formerly was!"
The young man inclines his head in acknowledgment of the precepts
of experience. Mrs. Rouncewell listens.
"Wheels!" says she. They have long been audible to the younger
ears of her companion. "What wheels on such a day as this, for
After a short interval, a tap at the door. "Come in!" A dark-
eyed, dark-haired, shy, village beauty comes in--so fresh in her
rosy and yet delicate bloom that the drops of rain which have
beaten on her hair look like the dew upon a flower fresh gathered.
"What company is this, Rosa?" says Mrs. Rouncewell.
"It's two young men in a gig, ma'am, who want to see the house--
yes, and if you please, I told them so!" in quick reply to a
gesture of dissent from the housekeeper. "I went to the hall-door
and told them it was the wrong day and the wrong hour, but the
young man who was driving took off his hat in the wet and begged me
to bring this card to you."
"Read it, my dear Watt," says the housekeeper.
Rosa is so shy as she gives it to him that they drop it between
them and almost knock their foreheads together as they pick it up.
Rosa is shyer than before.
"Mr. Guppy" is all the information the card yields.
"Guppy!" repeats Mrs. Rouncewell, "MR. Guppy! Nonsense, I never
heard of him!"
"If you please, he told ME that!" says Rosa. "But he said that he
and the other young gentleman came from London only last night by
the mail, on business at the magistrates' meeting, ten miles off,
this morning, and that as their business was soon over, and they
had heard a great deal said of Chesney Wold, and really didn't know
what to do with themselves, they had come through the wet to see
it. They are lawyers. He says he is not in Mr. Tulkinghorn's
office, but he is sure he may make use of Mr. Tulkinghorn's name if
necessary." Finding, now she leaves off, that she has been making
quite a long speech, Rosa is shyer than ever.
Now, Mr. Tulkinghorn is, in a manner, part and parcel of the place,
and besides, is supposed to have made Mrs. Rouncewell's will. The
old lady relaxes, consents to the admission of the visitors as a
favour, and dismisses Rosa. The grandson, however, being smitten
by a sudden wish to see the house himself, proposes to join the
party. The grandmother, who is pleased that he should have that
interest, accompanies him--though to do him justice, he is
exceedingly unwilling to trouble her.
"Much obliged to you, ma'am!" says Mr. Guppy, divesting himself of
his wet dreadnought in the hall. "Us London lawyers don't often
get an out, and when we do, we like to make the most of it, you
The old housekeeper, with a gracious severity of deportment, waves
her hand towards the great staircase. Mr. Guppy and his friend
follow Rosa; Mrs. Rouncewell and her grandson follow them; a young
gardener goes before to open the shutters.
As is usually the case with people who go over houses, Mr. Guppy
and his friend are dead beat before they have well begun. They
straggle about in wrong places, look at wrong things, don't care
for the right things, gape when more rooms are opened, exhibit
profound depression of spirits, and are clearly knocked up. In
each successive chamber that they enter, Mrs. Rouncewell, who is as
upright as the house itself, rests apart in a window-seat or other
such nook and listens with stately approval to Rosa's exposition.
Her grandson is so attentive to it that Rosa is shyer than ever--
and prettier. Thus they pass on from room to room, raising the
pictured Dedlocks for a few brief minutes as the young gardener
admits the light, and reconsigning them to their graves as he shuts
it out again. It appears to the afflicted Mr. Guppy and his
inconsolable friend that there is no end to the Dedlocks, whose
family greatness seems to consist in their never having done
anything to distinguish themselves for seven hundred years.
Even the long drawing-room of Chesney Wold cannot revive Mr.
Guppy's spirits. He is so low that he droops on the threshold and
has hardly strength of mind to enter. But a portrait over the
chimney-piece, painted by the fashionable artist of the day, acts
upon him like a charm. He recovers in a moment. He stares at it
with uncommon interest; he seems to be fixed and fascinated by it.
"Dear me!" says Mr. Guppy. "Who's that?"
"The picture over the fire-place," says Rosa, "is the portrait of
the present Lady Dedlock. It is considered a perfect likeness, and
the best work of the master."
"Blest," says Mr. Guppy, staring in a kind of dismay at his
friend, "if I can ever have seen her. Yet I know her! Has the
picture been engraved, miss?"
"The picture has never been engraved. Sir Leicester has always
"Well!" says Mr. Guppy in a low voice. "I'll be shot if it ain't
very curious how well I know that picture! So that's Lady Dedlock,
"The picture on the right is the present Sir Leicester Dedlock.
The picture on the left is his father, the late Sir Leicester."
Mr. Guppy has no eyes for either of these magnates. "It's
unaccountable to me," he says, still staring at the portrait, "how
well I know that picture! I'm dashed," adds Mr. Guppy, looking
round, "if I don't think I must have had a dream of that picture,
As no one present takes any especial interest in Mr. Guppy's
dreams, the probability is not pursued. But he still remains so
absorbed by the portrait that he stands immovable before it until
the young gardener has closed the shutters, when he comes out of
the room in a dazed state that is an odd though a sufficient
substitute for interest and follows into the succeeding rooms with
a confused stare, as if he were looking everywhere for Lady Dedlock
He sees no more of her. He sees her rooms, which are the last
shown, as being very elegant, and he looks out of the windows from
which she looked out, not long ago, upon the weather that bored her
to death. All things have an end, even houses that people take
infinite pains to see and are tired of before they begin to see
them. He has come to the end of the sight, and the fresh village
beauty to the end of her description; which is always this: "The
terrace below is much admired. It is called, from an old story in
the family, the Ghost's Walk."
"No?" says Mr. Guppy, greedily curious. "What's the story, miss?
Is it anything about a picture?"
"Pray tell us the story," says Watt in a half whisper.
"I don't know it, sir." Rosa is shyer than ever.
"It is not related to visitors; it is almost forgotten," says the
housekeeper, advancing. "It has never been more than a family
"You'll excuse my asking again if it has anything to do with a
picture, ma'am," observes Mr. Guppy, "because I do assure you that
the more I think of that picture the better I know it, without
knowing how I know it!"
The story has nothing to do with a picture; the housekeeper can
guarantee that. Mr. Guppy is obliged to her for the information
and is, moreover, generally obliged. He retires with his friend,
guided down another staircase by the young gardener, and presently
is heard to drive away. It is now dusk. Mrs. Rouncewell can trust
to the discretion of her two young hearers and may tell THEM how
the terrace came to have that ghostly name.
She seats herself in a large chair by the fast-darkening window and
tells them: "In the wicked days, my dears, of King Charles the
First--I mean, of course, in the wicked days of the rebels who
leagued themselves against that excellent king--Sir Morbury Dedlock
was the owner of Chesney Wold. Whether there was any account of a
ghost in the family before those days, I can't say. I should think
it very likely indeed."
Mrs. Rouncewell holds this opinion because she considers that a
family of such antiquity and importance has a right to a ghost.
She regards a ghost as one of the privileges of the upper classes,
a genteel distinction to which the common people have no claim.
"Sir Morbury Dedlock," says Mrs. Rouncewell, "was, I have no
occasion to say, on the side of the blessed martyr. But it IS
supposed that his Lady, who had none of the family blood in her
veins, favoured the bad cause. It is said that she had relations
among King Charles's enemies, that she was in correspondence with
them, and that she gave them information. When any of the country
gentlemen who followed his Majesty's cause met here, it is said
that my Lady was always nearer to the door of their council-room
than they supposed. Do you hear a sound like a footstep passing
along the terrace, Watt?"
Rosa draws nearer to the housekeeper.
"I hear the rain-drip on the stones," replies the young man, "and I
hear a curious echo--I suppose an echo--which is very like a
The housekeeper gravely nods and continues: "Partly on account of
this division between them, and partly on other accounts, Sir
Morbury and his Lady led a troubled life. She was a lady of a
haughty temper. They were not well suited to each other in age or
character, and they had no children to moderate between them.
After her favourite brother, a young gentleman, was killed in the
civil wars (by Sir Morbury's near kinsman), her feeling was so
violent that she hated the race into which she had married. When
the Dedlocks were about to ride out from Chesney Wold in the king's
cause, she is supposed to have more than once stolen down into the
stables in the dead of night and lamed their horses; and the story
is that once at such an hour, her husband saw her gliding down the
stairs and followed her into the stall where his own favourite
horse stood. There he seized her by the wrist, and in a struggle
or in a fall or through the horse being frightened and lashing out,
she was lamed in the hip and from that hour began to pine away."
The housekeeper has dropped her voice to a little more than a
"She had been a lady of a handsome figure and a noble carriage.
She never complained of the change; she never spoke to any one of
being crippled or of being in pain, but day by day she tried to
walk upon the terrace, and with the help of the stone balustrade,
went up and down, up and down, up and down, in sun and shadow, with
greater difficulty every day. At last, one afternoon her husband
(to whom she had never, on any persuasion, opened her lips since
that night), standing at the great south window, saw her drop upon
the pavement. He hastened down to raise her, but she repulsed him
as he bent over her, and looking at him fixedly and coldly, said,
'I will die here where I have walked. And I will walk here, though
I am in my grave. I will walk here until the pride of this house
is humbled. And when calamity or when disgrace is coming to it,
let the Dedlocks listen for my step!'"
Watt looks at Rosa. Rosa in the deepening gloom looks down upon
the ground, half frightened and half shy.
"There and then she died. And from those days," says Mrs.
Rouncewell, "the name has come down--the Ghost's Walk. If the
tread is an echo, it is an echo that is only heard after dark, and
is often unheard for a long while together. But it comes back from
time to time; and so sure as there is sickness or death in the
family, it will be heard then."
"And disgrace, grandmother--" says Watt.
"Disgrace never comes to Chesney Wold," returns the housekeeper.
Her grandson apologizes with "True. True."
"That is the story. Whatever the sound is, it is a worrying
sound," says Mrs. Rouncewell, getting up from her chair; "and what
is to be noticed in it is that it MUST BE HEARD. My Lady, who is
afraid of nothing, admits that when it is there, it must be heard.
You cannot shut it out. Watt, there is a tall French clock behind
you (placed there, 'a purpose) that has a loud beat when it is in
motion and can play music. You understand how those things are
"Pretty well, grandmother, I think."
"Set it a-going."
Watt sets it a-going--music and all.
"Now, come hither," says the housekeeper. "Hither, child, towards
my Lady's pillow. I am not sure that it is dark enough yet, but
listen! Can you hear the sound upon the terrace, through the
music, and the beat, and everything?"
"I certainly can!"
"So my Lady says."
Covering a Multitude of Sins
It was interesting when I dressed before daylight to peep out of
window, where my candles were reflected in the black panes like two
beacons, and finding all beyond still enshrouded in the
indistinctness of last night, to watch how it turned out when the
day came on. As the prospect gradually revealed itself and
disclosed the scene over which the wind had wandered in the dark,
like my memory over my life, I had a pleasure in discovering the
unknown objects that had been around me in my sleep. At first they
were faintly discernible in the mist, and above them the later
stars still glimmered. That pale interval over, the picture began
to enlarge and fill up so fast that at every new peep I could have
found enough to look at for an hour. Imperceptibly my candles
became the only incongruous part of the morning, the dark places in
my room all melted away, and the day shone bright upon a cheerful
landscape, prominent in which the old Abbey Church, with its
massive tower, threw a softer train of shadow on the view than
seemed compatible with its rugged character. But so from rough
outsides (I hope I have learnt), serene and gentle influences often
Every part of the house was in such order, and every one was so
attentive to me, that I had no trouble with my two bunches of keys,
though what with trying to remember the contents of each little
store-room drawer and cupboard; and what with making notes on a
slate about jams, and pickles, and preserves, and bottles, and
glass, and china, and a great many other things; and what with
being generally a methodical, old-maidish sort of foolish little
person, I was so busy that I could not believe it was breakfast-
time when I heard the bell ring. Away I ran, however, and made
tea, as I had already been installed into the responsibility of the
tea-pot; and then, as they were all rather late and nobody was down
yet, I thought I would take a peep at the garden and get some
knowledge of that too. I found it quite a delightful place--in
front, the pretty avenue and drive by which we had approached (and
where, by the by, we had cut up the gravel so terribly with our
wheels that I asked the gardener to roll it); at the back, the
flower-garden, with my darling at her window up there, throwing it
open to smile out at me, as if she would have kissed me from that
distance. Beyond the flower-garden was a kitchen-garden, and then
a paddock, and then a snug little rick-yard, and then a dear little
farm-yard. As to the house itself, with its three peaks in the
roof; its various-shaped windows, some so large, some so small, and
all so pretty; its trellis-work, against the southfront for roses
and honey-suckle, and its homely, comfortable, welcoming look--it
was, as Ada said when she came out to meet me with her arm through
that of its master, worthy of her cousin John, a bold thing to say,
though he only pinched her dear cheek for it.
Mr. Skimpole was as agreeable at breakfast as he had been
overnight. There was honey on the table, and it led him into a
discourse about bees. He had no objection to honey, he said (and I
should think he had not, for he seemed to like it), but he
protested against the overweening assumptions of bees. He didn't
at all see why the busy bee should be proposed as a model to him;
he supposed the bee liked to make honey, or he wouldn't do it--
nobody asked him. It was not necessary for the bee to make such a
merit of his tastes. If every confectioner went buzzing about the
world banging against everything that came in his way and
egotistically calling upon everybody to take notice that he was
going to his work and must not be interrupted, the world would be
quite an unsupportable place. Then, after all, it was a ridiculous
position to be smoked out of your fortune with brimstone as soon as
you had made it. You would have a very mean opinion of a
Manchester man if he spun cotton for no other purpose. He must say
he thought a drone the embodiment of a pleasanter and wiser idea.
The drone said unaffectedly, "You will excuse me; I really cannot
attend to the shop! I find myself in a world in which there is so
much to see and so short a time to see it in that I must take the
liberty of looking about me and begging to be provided for by
somebody who doesn't want to look about him." This appeared to Mr.
Skimpole to be the drone philosophy, and he thought it a very good
philosophy, always supposing the drone to be willing to be on good
terms with the bee, which, so far as he knew, the easy fellow
always was, if the consequential creature would only let him, and
not be so conceited about his honey!
He pursued this fancy with the lightest foot over a variety of
ground and made us all merry, though again he seemed to have as
serious a meaning in what he said as he was capable of having. I
left them still listening to him when I withdrew to attend to my
new duties. They had occupied me for some time, and I was passing
through the passages on my return with my basket of keys on my arm
when Mr. Jarndyce called me into a small room next his bed-chamber,
which I found to be in part a little library of books and papers
and in part quite a little museum of his boots and shoes and hat-
"Sit down, my dear," said Mr. Jarndyce. "This, you must know, is
the growlery. When I am out of humour, I come and growl here."
"You must be here very seldom, sir," said I.
"Oh, you don't know me!" he returned. "When I am deceived or
disappointed in--the wind, and it's easterly, I take refuge here.
The growlery is the best-used room in the house. You are not aware
of half my humours yet. My dear, how you are trembling!"
I could not help it; I tried very hard, but being alone with that
benevolent presence, and meeting his kind eyes, and feeling so
happy and so honoured there, and my heart so full--
I kissed his hand. I don't know what I said, or even that I spoke.
He was disconcerted and walked to the window; I almost believed
with an intention of jumping out, until he turned and I was
reassured by seeing in his eyes what he had gone there to hide. He
gently patted me on the head, and I sat down.
"There! There!" he said. "That's over. Pooh! Don't be foolish."
"It shall not happen again, sir," I returned, "but at first it is
"Nonsense!" he said. "It's easy, easy. Why not? I hear of a good
little orphan girl without a protector, and I take it into my head
to be that protector. She grows up, and more than justifies my
good opinion, and I remain her guardian and her friend. What is
there in all this? So, so! Now, we have cleared off old scores,
and I have before me thy pleasant, trusting, trusty face again."
I said to myself, "Esther, my dear, you surprise me! This really
is not what I expected of you!" And it had such a good effect that
I folded my hands upon my basket and quite recovered myself. Mr.
Jarndyce, expressing his approval in his face, began to talk to me
as confidentially as if I had been in the habit of conversing with
him every morning for I don't know how long. I almost felt as if I
"Of course, Esther," he said, "you don't understand this Chancery
And of course I shook my head.
"I don't know who does," he returned. "The lawyers have twisted it
into such a state of bedevilment that the original merits of the
case have long disappeared from the face of the earth. It's about
a will and the trusts under a will--or it was once. It's about
nothing but costs now. We are always appearing, and disappearing,
and swearing, and interrogating, and filing, and cross-filing, and
arguing, and sealing, and motioning, and referring, and reporting,
and revolving about the Lord Chancellor and all his satellites, and
equitably waltzing ourselves off to dusty death, about costs.
That's the great question. All the rest, by some extraordinary
means, has melted away."
"But it was, sir," said I, to bring him back, for he began to rub
his head, "about a will?"
"Why, yes, it was about a will when it was about anything," he
returned. "A certain Jarndyce, in an evil hour, made a great
fortune, and made a great will. In the question how the trusts
under that will are to be administered, the fortune left by the
will is squandered away; the legatees under the will are reduced to
such a miserable condition that they would be sufficiently punished
if they had committed an enormous crime in having money left them,
and the will itself is made a dead letter. All through the
deplorable cause, everything that everybody in it, except one man,
knows already is referred to that only one man who don't know, it to
find out--all through the deplorable cause, everybody must have
copies, over and over again, of everything that has accumulated
about it in the way of cartloads of papers (or must pay for them
without having them, which is the usual course, for nobody wants
them) and must go down the middle and up again through such an
infernal country-dance of costs and fees and nonsense and
corruption as was never dreamed of in the wildest visions of a
witch's Sabbath. Equity sends questions to law, law sends
questions back to equity; law finds it can't do this, equity finds
it can't do that; neither can so much as say it can't do anything,
without this solicitor instructing and this counsel appearing for
A, and that solicitor instructing and that counsel appearing for B;
and so on through the whole alphabet, like the history of the apple
pie. And thus, through years and years, and lives and lives,
everything goes on, constantly beginning over and over again, and
nothing ever ends. And we can't get out of the suit on any terms,
for we are made parties to it, and MUST BE parties to it, whether
we like it or not. But it won't do to think of it! When my great
uncle, poor Tom Jarndyce, began to think of it, it was the
beginning of the end!"
"The Mr. Jarndyce, sir, whose story I have heard?"
He nodded gravely. "I was his heir, and this was his house,
Esther. When I came here, it was bleak indeed. He had left the
signs of his misery upon it."
"How changed it must be now!" I said.
"It had been called, before his time, the Peaks. He gave it its
present name and lived here shut up, day and night poring over the
wicked heaps of papers in the suit and hoping against hope to
disentangle it from its mystification and bring it to a close. In
the meantime, the place became dilapidated, the wind whistled
through the cracked walls, the rain fell through the broken roof,
the weeds choked the passage to the rotting door. When I brought
what remained of him home here, the brains seemed to me to have
been blown out of the house too, it was so shattered and ruined."
He walked a little to and fro after saying this to himself with a
shudder, and then looked at me, and brightened, and came and sat
down again with his hands in his pockets.
"I told you this was the growlery, my dear. Where was I?"
I reminded him, at the hopeful change he had made in Bleak House.
"Bleak House; true. There is, in that city of London there, some
property of ours which is much at this day what Bleak House was
then; I say property of ours, meaning of the suit's, but I ought to
call it the property of costs, for costs is the only power on earth
that will ever get anything out of it now or will ever know it for
anything but an eyesore and a heartsore. It is a street of
perishing blind houses, with their eyes stoned out, without a pane
of glass, without so much as a window-frame, with the bare blank
shutters tumbling from their hinges and falling asunder, the iron
rails peeling away in flakes of rust, the chimneys sinking in, the
stone steps to every door (and every door might be death's door)
turning stagnant green, the very crutches on which the ruins are
propped decaying. Although Bleak House was not in Chancery, its
master was, and it was stamped with the same seal. These are the
Great Seal's impressions, my dear, all over England--the children
"How changed it is!" I said again.
"Why, so it is," he answered much more cheerfully; "and it is
wisdom in you to keep me to the bright side of the picture." (The
idea of my wisdom!) "These are things I never talk about or even
think about, excepting in the growlery here. If you consider it
right to mention them to Rick and Ada," looking seriously at me,
"you can. I leave it to your discretion, Esther."
"I hope, sir--" said I.
"I think you had better call me guardian, my dear."
I felt that I was choking again--I taxed myself with it, "Esther,
now, you know you are!"--when he feigned to say this slightly, as
if it were a whim instead of a thoughtful tenderness. But I gave
the housekeeping keys the least shake in the world as a reminder to
myself, and folding my hands in a still more determined manner on
the basket, looked at him quietly.
"I hope, guardian," said I, "that you may not trust too much to my
discretion. I hope you may not mistake me. I am afraid it will be
a disappointment to you to know that I am not clever, but it really
is the truth, and you would soon find it out if I had not the
honesty to confess it."
He did not seem at all disappointed; quite the contrary. He told
me, with a smile all over his face, that he knew me very well
indeed and that I was quite clever enough for him.
"I hope I may turn out so," said I, "but I am much afraid of it,
"You are clever enough to be the good little woman of our lives
here, my dear," he returned playfully; "the little old woman of the
child's (I don't mean Skimpole's) rhyme:
"'Little old woman, and whither so high?'
'To sweep the cobwebs out of the sky.'
"You will sweep them so neatly out of OUR sky in the course of your
housekeeping, Esther, that one of these days we shall have to
abandon the growlery and nail up the door."
This was the beginning of my being called Old Woman, and Little Old
Woman, and Cobweb, and Mrs. Shipton, and Mother Hubbard, and Dame
Durden, and so many names of that sort that my own name soon became
quite lost among them.
"However," said Mr. Jarndyce, "to return to our gossip. Here's
Rick, a fine young fellow full of promise. What's to be done with
Oh, my goodness, the idea of asking my advice on such a point!
"Here he is, Esther," said Mr. Jarndyce, comfortably putting his
hands into his pockets and stretching out his legs. "He must have
a profession; he must make some choice for himself. There will be
a world more wiglomeration about it, I suppose, but it must be
"More what, guardian?" said I.
"More wiglomeration," said he. "It's the only name I know for the
thing. He is a ward in Chancery, my dear. Kenge and Carboy will
have something to say about it; Master Somebody--a sort of
ridiculous sexton, digging graves for the merits of causes in a
back room at the end of Quality Court, Chancery Lane--will have
something to say about it; counsel will have something to say about
it; the Chancellor will have something to say about it; the
satellites will have something to say about it; they will all have
to be handsomely feed, all round, about it; the whole thing will be
vastly ceremonious, wordy, unsatisfactory, and expensive, and I
call it, in general, wiglomeration. How mankind ever came to be
afflicted with wiglomeration, or for whose sins these young people
ever fell into a pit of it, I don't know; so it is."
He began to rub his head again and to hint that he felt the wind.
But it was a delightful instance of his kindness towards me that
whether he rubbed his head, or walked about, or did both, his face
was sure to recover its benignant expression as it looked at mine;
and he was sure to turn comfortable again and put his hands in his
pockets and stretch out his legs.
"Perhaps it would be best, first of all," said I, "to ask Mr.
Richard what he inclines to himself."
"Exactly so," he returned. "That's what I mean! You know, just
accustom yourself to talk it over, with your tact and in your quiet
way, with him and Ada, and see what you all make of it. We are
sure to come at the heart of the matter by your means, little
I really was frightened at the thought of the importance I was
attaining and the number of things that were being confided to me.
I had not meant this at all; I had meant that he should speak to
Richard. But of course I said nothing in reply except that I would
do my best, though I feared (I realty felt it necessary to repeat
this) that he thought me much more sagacious than I was. At which
my guardian only laughed the pleasantest laugh I ever heard.
"Come!" he said, rising and pushing back his chair. "I think we
may have done with the growlery for one day! Only a concluding
word. Esther, my dear, do you wish to ask me anything?"
He looked so attentively at me that I looked attentively at him and
felt sure I understood him.
"About myself, sir?" said I.
"Guardian," said I, venturing to put my hand, which was suddenly
colder than I could have wished, in his, "nothing! I am quite sure
that if there were anything I ought to know or had any need to
know, I should not have to ask you to tell it to me. If my whole
reliance and confidence were not placed in you, I must have a hard
heart indeed. I have nothing to ask you, nothing in the world."
He drew my hand through his arm and we went away to look for Ada.
From that hour I felt quite easy with him, quite unreserved, quite
content to know no more, quite happy.
We lived, at first, rather a busy life at Bleak House, for we had
to become acquainted with many residents in and out of the
neighbourhood who knew Mr. Jarndyce. It seemed to Ada and me that
everybody knew him who wanted to do anything with anybody else's
money. It amazed us when we began to sort his letters and to
answer some of them for him in the growlery of a morning to find
how the great object of the lives of nearly all his correspondents
appeared to be to form themselves into committees for getting in
and laying out money. The ladies were as desperate as the
gentlemen; indeed, I think they were even more so. They threw
themselves into committees in the most impassioned manner and
collected subscriptions with a vehemence quite extraordinary. It
appeared to us that some of them must pass their whole lives in
dealing out subscription-cards to the whole post-office directory--
shilling cards, half-crown cards, half-sovereign cards, penny
cards. They wanted everything. They wanted wearing apparel, they
wanted linen rags, they wanted money, they wanted coals, they
wanted soup, they wanted interest, they wanted autographs, they
wanted flannel, they wanted whatever Mr. Jarndyce had--or had not.
Their objects were as various as their demands. They were going to
raise new buildings, they were going to pay off debts on old
buildings, they were going to establish in a picturesque building
(engraving of proposed west elevation attached) the Sisterhood of
Mediaeval Marys, they were going to give a testimonial to Mrs.
Jellyby, they were going to have their secretary's portrait painted
and presented to his mother-in-law, whose deep devotion to him was
well known, they were going to get up everything, I really believe,
from five hundred thousand tracts to an annuity and from a marble
monument to a silver tea-pot. They took a multitude of titles.
They were the Women of England, the Daughters of Britain, the
Sisters of all the cardinal virtues separately, the Females of
America, the Ladies of a hundred denominations. They appeared to
be always excited about canvassing and electing. They seemed to
our poor wits, and according to their own accounts, to be
constantly polling people by tens of thousands, yet never bringing
their candidates in for anything. It made our heads ache to think,
on the whole, what feverish lives they must lead.
Among the ladies who were most distinguished for this rapacious
benevolence (if I may use the expression) was a Mrs. Pardiggle, who
seemed, as I judged from the number of her letters to Mr. Jarndyce,
to be almost as powerful a correspondent as Mrs. Jellyby herself.
We observed that the wind always changed when Mrs. Pardiggle became
the subject of conversation and that it invariably interrupted Mr.
Jarndyce and prevented his going any farther, when he had remarked
that there were two classes of charitable people; one, the people
who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the
people who did a great deal and made no noise at all. We were
therefore curious to see Mrs. Pardiggle, suspecting her to be a
type of the former class, and were glad when she called one day
with her five young sons.
She was a formidable style of lady with spectacles, a prominent
nose, and a loud voice, who had the effect of wanting a great deal
of room. And she really did, for she knocked down little chairs
with her skirts that were quite a great way off. As only Ada and I
were at home, we received her timidly, for she seemed to come in
like cold weather and to make the little Pardiggles blue as they
"These, young ladies," said Mrs. Pardiggle with great volubility
after the first salutations, "are my five boys. You may have seen
their names in a printed subscription list (perhaps more than one)
in the possession of our esteemed friend Mr. Jarndyce. Egbert, my
eldest (twelve), is the boy who sent out his pocket-money, to the
amount of five and threepence, to the Tockahoopo Indians. Oswald,
my second (ten and a half), is the child who contributed two and
nine-pence to the Great National Smithers Testimonial. Francis, my
third (nine), one and sixpence halfpenny; Felix, my fourth (seven),
eightpence to the Superannuated Widows; Alfred, my youngest (five),
has voluntarily enrolled himself in the Infant Bonds of Joy, and is
pledged never, through life, to use tobacco in any form."
We had never seen such dissatisfied children. It was not merely
that they were weazened and shrivelled--though they were certainly
that too--but they looked absolutely ferocious with discontent. At
the mention of the Tockahoopo Indians, I could really have supposed
Egbert to be one of the most baleful members of that tribe, he gave
me such a savage frown. The face of each child, as the amount of
his contribution was mentioned, darkened in a peculiarly vindictive
manner, but his was by far the worst. I must except, however, the
little recruit into the Infant Bonds of Joy, who was stolidly and
"You have been visiting, I understand," said Mrs. Pardiggle, "at
We said yes, we had passed one night there.
"Mrs. Jellyby," pursued the lady, always speaking in the same
demonstrative, loud, hard tone, so that her voice impressed my
fancy as if it had a sort of spectacles on too--and I may take the
opportunity of remarking that her spectacles were made the less
engaging by her eyes being what Ada called "choking eyes," meaning
very prominent--"Mrs. Jellyby is a benefactor to society and
deserves a helping hand. My boys have contributed to the African
project--Egbert, one and six, being the entire allowance of nine
weeks; Oswald, one and a penny halfpenny, being the same; the rest,
according to their little means. Nevertheless, I do not go with
Mrs. Jellyby in all things. I do not go with Mrs. Jellyby in her
treatment of her young family. It has been noticed. It has been
observed that her young family are excluded from participation in
the objects to which she is devoted. She may be right, she may be
wrong; but, right or wrong, this is not my course with MY young
family. I take them everywhere."
I was afterwards convinced (and so was Ada) that from the ill-
conditioned eldest child, these words extorted a sharp yell. He
turned it off into a yawn, but it began as a yell.
"They attend matins with me (very prettily done) at half-past six
o'clock in the morning all the year round, including of course the
depth of winter," said Mrs. Pardiggle rapidly, "and they are with
me during the revolving duties of the day. I am a School lady, I
am a Visiting lady, I am a Reading lady, I am a Distributing lady;
I am on the local Linen Box Committee and many general committees;
and my canvassing alone is very extensive--perhaps no one's more
so. But they are my companions everywhere; and by these means they
acquire that knowledge of the poor, and that capacity of doing
charitable business in general--in short, that taste for the sort
of thing--which will render them in after life a service to their
neighbours and a satisfaction to themselves. My young family are
not frivolous; they expend the entire amount of their allowance in
subscriptions, under my direction; and they have attended as many
public meetings and listened to as many lectures, orations, and
discussions as generally fall to the lot of few grown people.
Alfred (five), who, as I mentioned, has of his own election joined
the Infant Bonds of Joy, was one of the very few children who
manifested consciousness on that occasion after a fervid address of
two hours from the chairman of the evening."
Alfred glowered at us as if he never could, or would, forgive the
injury of that night.
"You may have observed, Miss Summerson," said Mrs. Pardiggle, "in
some of the lists to which I have referred, in the possession of
our esteemed friend Mr. Jarndyce, that the names of my young family
are concluded with the name of O. A. Pardiggle, F.R.S., one pound.
That is their father. We usually observe the same routine. I put
down my mite first; then my young family enrol their contributions,
according to their ages and their little means; and then Mr.
Pardiggle brings up the rear. Mr. Pardiggle is happy to throw in
his limited donation, under my direction; and thus things are made
not only pleasant to ourselves, but, we trust, improving to
Suppose Mr. Pardiggle were to dine with Mr. Jellyby, and suppose
Mr. Jellyby were to relieve his mind after dinner to Mr. Pardiggle,
would Mr. Pardiggle, in return, make any confidential communication
to Mr. Jellyby? I was quite confused to find myself thinking this,
but it came into my head.
"You are very pleasantly situated here!" said Mrs. Pardiggle.
We were glad to change the subject, and going to the window,
pointed out the beauties of the prospect, on which the spectacles
appeared to me to rest with curious indifference.
"You know Mr. Gusher?" said our visitor.
We were obliged to say that we had not the pleasure of Mr. Gusher's
"The loss is yours, I assure you," said Mrs. Pardiggle with her
commanding deportment. "He is a very fervid, impassioned speaker--
full of fire! Stationed in a waggon on this lawn, now, which, from
the shape of the land, is naturally adapted to a public meeting, he
would improve almost any occasion you could mention for hours and
hours! By this time, young ladies," said Mrs. Pardiggle, moving
back to her chair and overturning, as if by invisible agency, a
little round table at a considerable distance with my work-basket
on it, "by this time you have found me out, I dare say?"
This was really such a confusing question that Ada looked at me in
perfect dismay. As to the guilty nature of my own consciousness
after what I had been thinking, it must have been expressed in the
colour of my cheeks.
"Found out, I mean," said Mrs. Pardiggle, "the prominent point in
my character. I am aware that it is so prominent as to be
discoverable immediately. I lay myself open to detection, I know.
Well! I freely admit, I am a woman of business. I love hard work;
I enjoy hard work. The excitement does me good. I am so
accustomed and inured to hard work that I don't know what fatigue
We murmured that it was very astonishing and very gratifying, or
something to that effect. I don't think we knew what it was
either, but this is what our politeness expressed.
"I do not understand what it is to be tired; you cannot tire me if
you try!" said Mrs. Pardiggle. "The quantity of exertion (which is
no exertion to me), the amount of business (which I regard as
nothing), that I go through sometimes astonishes myself. I have
seen my young family, and Mr. Pardiggle, quite worn out with
witnessing it, when I may truly say I have been as fresh as a
If that dark-visaged eldest boy could look more malicious than he
had already looked, this was the time when he did it. I observed
that he doubled his right fist and delivered a secret blow into the
crown of his cap, which was under his left arm.
"This gives me a great advantage when I am making my rounds," said
Mrs. Pardiggle. "If I find a person unwilling to hear what I have
to say, I tell that person directly, 'I am incapable of fatigue, my
good friend, I am never tired, and I mean to go on until I have
done.' It answers admirably! Miss Summerson, I hope I shall have
your assistance in my visiting rounds immediately, and Miss Clare's
At first I tried to excuse myself for the present on the general
ground of having occupations to attend to which I must not neglect.
But as this was an ineffectual protest, I then said, more
particularly, that I was not sure of my qualifications. That I was
inexperienced in the art of adapting my mind to minds very
differently situated, and addressing them from suitable points of
view. That I had not that delicate knowledge of the heart which
must be essential to such a work. That I had much to learn,
myself, before I could teach others, and that I could not confide
in my good intentions alone. For these reasons I thought it best
to be as useful as I could, and to render what kind services I
could to those immediately about me, and to try to let that circle
of duty gradually and naturally expand itself. All this I said
with anything but confidence, because Mrs. Pardiggle was much older
than I, and had great experience, and was so very military in her
"You are wrong, Miss Summerson," said she, "but perhaps you are not
equal to hard work or the excitement of it, and that makes a vast
difference. If you would like to see how I go through my work, I
am now about--with my young family--to visit a brickmaker in the
neighbourhood (a very bad character) and shall be glad to take you
with me. Miss Clare also, if she will do me the favour."
Ada and I interchanged looks, and as we were going out in any case,
accepted the offer. When we hastily returned from putting on our
bonnets, we found the young family languishing in a corner and Mrs.
Pardiggle sweeping about the room, knocking down nearly all the
light objects it contained. Mrs. Pardiggle took possession of Ada,
and I followed with the family.
Ada told me afterwards that Mrs. Pardiggle talked in the same loud
tone (that, indeed, I overheard) all the way to the brickmaker's
about an exciting contest which she had for two or three years
waged against another lady relative to the bringing in of their
rival candidates for a pension somewhere. There had been a
quantity of printing, and promising, and proxying, and polling, and
it appeared to have imparted great liveliness to all concerned,
except the pensioners--who were not elected yet.
I am very fond of being confided in by children and am happy in
being usually favoured in that respect, but on this occasion it
gave me great uneasiness. As soon as we were out of doors, Egbert,
with the manner of a little footpad, demanded a shilling of me on
the ground that his pocket-money was "boned" from him. On my
pointing out the great impropriety of the word, especially in
connexion with his parent (for he added sulkily "By her!"), he
pinched me and said, "Oh, then! Now! Who are you! YOU wouldn't
like it, I think? What does she make a sham for, and pretend to
give me money, and take it away again? Why do you call it my
allowance, and never let me spend it?" These exasperating
questions so inflamed his mind and the minds of Oswald and Francis
that they all pinched me at once, and in a dreadfully expert way--
screwing up such little pieces of my arms that I could hardly
forbear crying out. Felix, at the same time, stamped upon my toes.
And the Bond of Joy, who on account of always having the whole of
his little income anticipated stood in fact pledged to abstain from
cakes as well as tobacco, so swelled with grief and rage when we
passed a pastry-cook's shop that he terrified me by becoming
purple. I never underwent so much, both in body and mind, in the
course of a walk with young people as from these unnaturally
constrained children when they paid me the compliment of being
I was glad when we came to the brickmaker's house, though it was
one of a cluster of wretched hovels in a brick-field, with pigsties
close to the broken windows and miserable little gardens before the
doors growing nothing but stagnant pools. Here and there an old
tub was put to catch the droppings of rain-water from a roof, or
they were banked up with mud into a little pond like a large dirt-
pie. At the doors and windows some men and women lounged or
prowled about, and took little notice of us except to laugh to one
another or to say something as we passed about gentlefolks minding
their own business and not troubling their heads and muddying their
shoes with coming to look after other people's.
Mrs. Pardiggle, leading the way with a great show of moral
determination and talking with much volubility about the untidy
habits of the people (though I doubted if the best of us could have
been tidy in such a place), conducted us into a cottage at the
farthest corner, the ground-floor room of which we nearly filled.
Besides ourselves, there were in this damp, offensive room a woman
with a black eye, nursing a poor little gasping baby by the fire; a
man, all stained with clay and mud and looking very dissipated,
lying at full length on the ground, smoking a pipe; a powerful
young man fastening a collar on a dog; and a bold girl doing some
kind of washing in very dirty water. They all looked up at us as
we came in, and the woman seemed to turn her face towards the fire
as if to hide her bruised eye; nobody gave us any welcome.
"Well, my friends," said Mrs. Pardiggle, but her voice had not a
friendly sound, I thought; it was much too business-like and
systematic. "How do you do, all of you? I am here again. I told
you, you couldn't tire me, you know. I am fond of hard work, and
am true to my word."
"There an't," growled the man on the floor, whose head rested on
his hand as he stared at us, "any more on you to come in, is
"No, my friend," said Mrs. Pardiggle, seating herself on one stool
and knocking down another. "We are all here."
"Because I thought there warn't enough of you, perhaps?" said the
man, with his pipe between his lips as he looked round upon us.
The young man and the girl both laughed. Two friends of the young
man, whom we had attracted to the doorway and who stood there with
their hands in their pockets, echoed the laugh noisily.
"You can't tire me, good people," said Mrs. Pardiggle to these
latter. "I enjoy hard work, and the harder you make mine, the
better I like it."
"Then make it easy for her!" growled the man upon the floor. "I
wants it done, and over. I wants a end of these liberties took
with my place. I wants an end of being drawed like a badger. Now
you're a-going to poll-pry and question according to custom--I know
what you're a-going to be up to. Well! You haven't got no
occasion to be up to it. I'll save you the trouble. Is my
daughter a-washin? Yes, she IS a-washin. Look at the water.
Smell it! That's wot we drinks. How do you like it, and what do
you think of gin instead! An't my place dirty? Yes, it is dirty--
it's nat'rally dirty, and it's nat'rally onwholesome; and we've had
five dirty and onwholesome children, as is all dead infants, and so
much the better for them, and for us besides. Have I read the
little book wot you left? No, I an't read the little book wot you
left. There an't nobody here as knows how to read it; and if there
wos, it wouldn't be suitable to me. It's a book fit for a babby,
and I'm not a babby. If you was to leave me a doll, I shouldn't
nuss it. How have I been conducting of myself? Why, I've been
drunk for three days; and I'da been drunk four if I'da had the
money. Don't I never mean for to go to church? No, I don't never
mean for to go to church. I shouldn't be expected there, if I did;
the beadle's too gen-teel for me. And how did my wife get that
black eye? Why, I give it her; and if she says I didn't, she's a
He had pulled his pipe out of his mouth to say all this, and he now
turned over on his other side and smoked again. Mrs. Pardiggle,
who had been regarding him through her spectacles with a forcible
composure, calculated, I could not help thinking, to increase his
antagonism, pulled out a good book as if it were a constable's
staff and took the whole family into custody. I mean into
religious custody, of course; but she really did it as if she were
an inexorable moral policeman carrying them all off to a station-
Ada and I were very uncomfortable. We both felt intrusive and out
of place, and we both thought that Mrs. Pardiggle would have got on
infinitely better if she had not had such a mechanical way of
taking possession of people. The children sulked and stared; the
family took no notice of us whatever, except when the young man
made the dog bark, which he usually did when Mrs. Pardiggle was
most emphatic. We both felt painfully sensible that between us and
these people there was an iron barrier which could not be removed
by our new friend. By whom or how it could be removed, we did not
know, but we knew that. Even what she read and said seemed to us
to be ill-chosen for such auditors, if it had been imparted ever so
modestly and with ever so much tact. As to the little book to
which the man on the floor had referred, we acquired a knowledge of
it afterwards, and Mr. Jarndyce said he doubted if Robinson Crusoe
could have read it, though he had had no other on his desolate
We were much relieved, under these circumstances, when Mrs.
Pardiggle left off.
The man on the floor, then turning his head round again, said
morosely, "Well! You've done, have you?"
"For to-day, I have, my friend. But I am never fatigued. I shall
come to you again in your regular order," returned Mrs. Pardiggle
with demonstrative cheerfulness.
"So long as you goes now," said he, folding his arms and shutting
his eyes with an oath, "you may do wot you like!"
Mrs. Pardiggle accordingly rose and made a little vortex in the
confined room from which the pipe itself very narrowly escaped.
Taking one of her young family in each hand, and telling the others
to follow closely, and expressing her hope that the brickmaker and
all his house would be improved when she saw them next, she then
proceeded to another cottage. I hope it is not unkind in me to say
that she certainly did make, in this as in everything else, a show
that was not conciliatory of doing charity by wholesale and of
dealing in it to a large extent.
She supposed that we were following her, but as soon as the space
was left clear, we approached the woman sitting by the fire to ask
if the baby were ill.
She only looked at it as it lay on her lap. We had observed before
that when she looked at it she covered her discoloured eye with her
hand, as though she wished to separate any association with noise
and violence and ill treatment from the poor little child.
Ada, whose gentle heart was moved by its appearance, bent down to
touch its little face. As she did so, I saw what happened and drew
her back. The child died.
"Oh, Esther!" cried Ada, sinking on her knees beside it. "Look
here! Oh, Esther, my love, the little thing! The suffering,
quiet, pretty little thing! I am so sorry for it. I am so sorry
for the mother. I never saw a sight so pitiful as this before!
Oh, baby, baby!"
Such compassion, such gentleness, as that with which she bent down
weeping and put her hand upon the mother's might have softened any
mother's heart that ever beat. The woman at first gazed at her in
astonishment and then burst into tears.
Presently I took the light burden from her lap, did what I could to
make the baby's rest the prettier and gentler, laid it on a shelf,
and covered it with my own handkerchief. We tried to comfort the
mother, and we whispered to her what Our Saviour said of children.
She answered nothing, but sat weeping--weeping very much.
When I turned, I found that the young man had taken out the dog and
was standing at the door looking in upon us with dry eyes, but
quiet. The girl was quiet too and sat in a corner looking on the
ground. The man had risen. He still smoked his pipe with an air
of defiance, but he was silent.
An ugly woman, very poorly clothed, hurried in while I was glancing
at them, and coming straight up to the mother, said, "Jenny!
Jenny!" The mother rose on being so addressed and fell upon the
She also had upon her face and arms the marks of ill usage. She
had no kind of grace about her, but the grace of sympathy; but when
she condoled with the woman, and her own tears fell, she wanted no
beauty. I say condoled, but her only words were "Jenny! Jenny!"
All the rest was in the tone in which she said them.
I thought it very touching to see these two women, coarse and
shabby and beaten, so united; to see what they could be to one
another; to see how they felt for one another, how the heart of
each to each was softened by the hard trials of their lives. I
think the best side of such people is almost hidden from us. What
the poor are to the poor is little known, excepting to themselves
We felt it better to withdraw and leave them uninterrupted. We
stole out quietly and without notice from any one except the man.
He was leaning against the wall near the door, and finding that
there was scarcely room for us to pass, went out before us. He
seemed to want to hide that he did this on our account, but we
perceived that he did, and thanked him. He made no answer.
Ada was so full of grief all the way home, and Richard, whom we
found at home, was so distressed to see her in tears (though he
said to me, when she was not present, how beautiful it was too!),
that we arranged to return at night with some little comforts and
repeat our visit at the brick-maker's house. We said as little as
we could to Mr. Jarndyce, but the wind changed directly.
Richard accompanied us at night to the scene of our morning
expedition. On our way there, we had to pass a noisy drinking-
house, where a number of men were flocking about the door. Among
them, and prominent in some dispute, was the father of the little
child. At a short distance, we passed the young man and the dog,
in congenial company. The sister was standing laughing and talking
with some other young women at the corner of the row of cottages,
but she seemed ashamed and turned away as we went by.
We left our escort within sight of the brickmaker's dwelling and
proceeded by ourselves. When we came to the door, we found the
woman who had brought such consolation with her standing there
looking anxiously out.
"It's you, young ladies, is it?" she said in a whisper. "I'm a-
watching for my master. My heart's in my mouth. If he was to
catch me away from home, he'd pretty near murder me."
"Do you mean your husband?" said I.
"Yes, miss, my master. Jenny's asleep, quite worn out. She's
scarcely had the child off her lap, poor thing, these seven days
and nights, except when I've been able to take it for a minute or
As she gave way for us, she went softly in and put what we had
brought near the miserable bed on which the mother slept. No
effort had been made to clean the room--it seemed in its nature
almost hopeless of being clean; but the small waxen form from which
so much solemnity diffused itself had been composed afresh, and
washed, and neatly dressed in some fragments of white linen; and on
my handkerchief, which still covered the poor baby, a little bunch
of sweet herbs had been laid by the same rough, scarred hands, so
lightly, so tenderly!
"May heaven reward you!" we said to her. "You are a good woman."
"Me, young ladies?" she returned with surprise. "Hush! Jenny,
The mother had moaned in her sleep and moved. The sound of the
familiar voice seemed to calm her again. She was quiet once more.
How little I thought, when I raised my handkerchief to look upon
the tiny sleeper underneath and seemed to see a halo shine around
the child through Ada's drooping hair as her pity bent her head--
how little I thought in whose unquiet bosom that handkerchief would
come to lie after covering the motionless and peaceful breast! I
only thought that perhaps the Angel of the child might not be all
unconscious of the woman who replaced it with so compassionate a
hand; not all unconscious of her presently, when we had taken
leave, and left her at the door, by turns looking, and listening in
terror for herself, and saying in her old soothing manner, "Jenny,
Signs and Tokens
I don't know how it is I seem to be always writing about myself. I
mean all the time to write about other people, and I try to think
about myself as little as possible, and I am sure, when I find
myself coming into the story again, I am really vexed and say,
"Dear, dear, you tiresome little creature, I wish you wouldn't!"
but it is all of no use. I hope any one who may read what I write
will understand that if these pages contain a great deal about me,
I can only suppose it must be because I have really something to do
with them and can't be kept out.
My darling and I read together, and worked, and practised, and
found so much employment for our time that the winter days flew by
us like bright-winged birds. Generally in the afternoons, and
always in the evenings, Richard gave us his company. Although he
was one of the most restless creatures in the world, he certainly
was very fond of our society.
He was very, very, very fond of Ada. I mean it, and I had better
say it at once. I had never seen any young people falling in love
before, but I found them out quite soon. I could not say so, of
course, or show that I knew anything about it. On the contrary, I
was so demure and used to seem so unconscious that sometimes I
considered within myself while I was sitting at work whether I was
not growing quite deceitful.
But there was no help for it. All I had to do was to be quiet, and
I was as quiet as a mouse. They were as quiet as mice too, so far
as any words were concerned, but the innocent manner in which they
relied more and more upon me as they took more and more to one
another was so charming that I had great difficulty in not showing
how it interested me.
"Our dear little old woman is such a capital old woman," Richard
would say, coming up to meet me in the garden early, with his
pleasant laugh and perhaps the least tinge of a blush, "that I
can't get on without her. Before I begin my harum-scarum day--
grinding away at those books and instruments and then galloping up
hill and down dale, all the country round, like a highwayman--it
does me so much good to come and have a steady walk with our
comfortable friend, that here I am again!"
"You know, Dame Durden, dear," Ada would say at night, with her
head upon my shoulder and the firelight shining in her thoughtful
eyes, "I don't want to talk when we come upstairs here. Only to
sit a little while thinking, with your dear face for company, and
to hear the wind and remember the poor sailors at sea--"
Ah! Perhaps Richard was going to be a sailor. We had talked it
over very often now, and there was some talk of gratifying the
inclination of his childhood for the sea. Mr. Jarndyce had written
to a relation of the family, a great Sir Leicester Dedlock, for his
interest in Richard's favour, generally; and Sir Leicester had
replied in a gracious manner that he would be happy to advance the
prospects of the young gentleman if it should ever prove to be
within his power, which was not at all probable, and that my Lady
sent her compliments to the young gentleman (to whom she perfectly
remembered that she was allied by remote consanguinity) and trusted
that he would ever do his duty in any honourable profession to
which he might devote himself.
"So I apprehend it's pretty clear," said Richard to me, "that I
shall have to work my own way. Never mind! Plenty of people have
had to do that before now, and have done it. I only wish I had the
command of a clipping privateer to begin with and could carry off
the Chancellor and keep him on short allowance until he gave
judgment in our cause. He'd find himself growing thin, if he
didn't look sharp!"
With a buoyancy and hopefulness and a gaiety that hardly ever
flagged, Richard had a carelessness in his character that quite
perplexed me, principally because he mistook it, in such a very odd
way, for prudence. It entered into all his calculations about
money in a singular manner which I don't think I can better explain
than by reverting for a moment to our loan to Mr. Skimpole.
Mr. Jarndyce had ascertained the amount, either from Mr. Skimpole
himself or from Coavinses, and had placed the money in my hands
with instructions to me to retain my own part of it and hand the
rest to Richard. The number of little acts of thoughtless
expenditure which Richard justified by the recovery of his ten
pounds, and the number of times he talked to me as if he had saved
or realized that amount, would form a sum in simple addition.
"My prudent Mother Hubbard, why not?" he said to me when he wanted,
without the least consideration, to bestow five pounds on the
brickmaker. "I made ten pounds, clear, out of Coavinses'
"How was that?" said I.
"Why, I got rid of ten pounds which I was quite content to get rid
of and never expected to see any more. You don't deny that?"
"No," said I.
"Very well! Then I came into possession of ten pounds--"
"The same ten pounds," I hinted.
"That has nothing to do with it!" returned Richard. "I have got
ten pounds more than I expected to have, and consequently I can
afford to spend it without being particular."
In exactly the same way, when he was persuaded out of the sacrifice
of these five pounds by being convinced that it would do no good,
he carried that sum to his credit and drew upon it.
"Let me see!" he would say. "I saved five pounds out of the
brickmaker's affair, so if I have a good rattle to London and back
in a post-chaise and put that down at four pounds, I shall have
saved one. And it's a very good thing to save one, let me tell
you: a penny saved is a penny got!"
I believe Richard's was as frank and generous a nature as there
possibly can be. He was ardent and brave, and in the midst of all
his wild restlessness, was so gentle that I knew him like a brother
in a few weeks. His gentleness was natural to him and would have
shown itself abundantly even without Ada's influence; but with it,
he became one of the most winning of companions, always so ready to
be interested and always so happy, sanguine, and light-hearted. I
am sure that I, sitting with them, and walking with them, and
talking with them, and noticing from day to day how they went on,
falling deeper and deeper in love, and saying nothing about it, and
each shyly thinking that this love was the greatest of secrets,
perhaps not yet suspected even by the other--I am sure that I was
scarcely less enchanted than they were and scarcely less pleased
with the pretty dream.
We were going on in this way, when one morning at breakfast Mr.
Jarndyce received a letter, and looking at the superscription,
said, "From Boythorn? Aye, aye!" and opened and read it with
evident pleasure, announcing to us in a parenthesis when he was
about half-way through, that Boythorn was "coming down" on a visit.
Now who was Boythorn, we all thought. And I dare say we all
thought too--I am sure I did, for one--would Boythorn at all
interfere with what was going forward?
"I went to school with this fellow, Lawrence Boythorn," said Mr.
Jarndyce, tapping the letter as he laid it on the table, "more than
five and forty years ago. He was then the most impetuous boy in
the world, and he is now the most impetuous man. He was then the
loudest boy in the world, and he is now the loudest man. He was
then the heartiest and sturdiest boy in the world, and he is now
the heartiest and sturdiest man. He is a tremendous fellow."
"In stature, sir?" asked Richard.
"Pretty well, Rick, in that respect," said Mr. Jarndyce; "being
some ten years older than I and a couple of inches taller, with his
head thrown back like an old soldier, his stalwart chest squared,
his hands like a clean blacksmith's, and his lungs! There's no
simile for his lungs. Talking, laughing, or snoring, they make the
beams of the house shake."
As Mr. Jarndyce sat enjoying the image of his friend Boythorn, we
observed the favourable omen that there was not the least
indication of any change in the wind.
"But it's the inside of the man, the warm heart of the man, the
passion of the man, the fresh blood of the man, Rick--and Ada, and
little Cobweb too, for you are all interested in a visitor--that I
speak of," he pursued. "His language is as sounding as his voice.
He is always in extremes, perpetually in the superlative degree.
In his condemnation he is all ferocity. You might suppose him to
be an ogre from what he says, and I believe he has the reputation
of one with some people. There! I tell you no more of him
beforehand. You must not be surprised to see him take me under his
protection, for he has never forgotten that I was a low boy at
school and that our friendship began in his knocking two of my head
tyrant's teeth out (he says six) before breakfast. Boythorn and
his man," to me, "will be here this afternoon, my dear."
I took care that the necessary preparations were made for Mr.
Boythorn's reception, and we looked forward to his arrival with
some curiosity. The afternoon wore away, however, and he did not
appear. The dinner-hour arrived, and still he did not appear. The
dinner was put back an hour, and we were sitting round the fire
with no light but the blaze when the hall-door suddenly burst open
and the hall resounded with these words, uttered with the greatest
vehemence and in a stentorian tone: "We have been misdirected,
Jarndyce, by a most abandoned ruffian, who told us to take the
turning to the right instead of to the left. He is the most
intolerable scoundrel on the face of the earth. His father must
have been a most consummate villain, ever to have such a son. I
would have had that fellow shot without the least remorse!"
"Did he do it on purpose?" Mr. Jarndyce inquired.
"I have not the slightest doubt that the scoundrel has passed his
whole existence in misdirecting travellers!" returned the other.
"By my soul, I thought him the worst-looking dog I had ever beheld
when he was telling me to take the turning to the right. And yet I
stood before that fellow face to face and didn't knock his brains
"Teeth, you mean?" said Mr. Jarndyce.
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Mr. Lawrence Boythorn, really making the
whole house vibrate. "What, you have not forgotten it yet! Ha,
ha, ha! And that was another most consummate vagabond! By my
soul, the countenance of that fellow when he was a boy was the
blackest image of perfidy, cowardice, and cruelty ever set up as a
scarecrow in a field of scoundrels. If I were to meet that most
unparalleled despot in the streets to-morrow, I would fell him like
a rotten tree!"
"I have no doubt of it," said Mr. Jarndyce. "Now, will you come
"By my soul, Jarndyce," returned his guest, who seemed to refer to
his watch, "if you had been married, I would have turned back at
the garden-gate and gone away to the remotest summits of the
Himalaya Mountains sooner than I would have presented myself at
this unseasonable hour."
"Not quite so far, I hope?" said Mr. Jarndyce.
"By my life and honour, yes!" cried the visitor. "I wouldn't be
guilty of the audacious insolence of keeping a lady of the house
waiting all this time for any earthly consideration. I would
infinitely rather destroy myself--infinitely rather!"
Talking thus, they went upstairs, and presently we heard him in his
bedroom thundering "Ha, ha, ha!" and again "Ha, ha, ha!" until the
flattest echo in the neighbourhood seemed to catch the contagion
and to laugh as enjoyingly as he did or as we did when we heard him
We all conceived a prepossession in his favour, for there was a
sterling quality in this laugh, and in his vigorous, healthy voice,
and in the roundness and fullness with which he uttered every word
he spoke, and in the very fury of his superlatives, which seemed to
go off like blank cannons and hurt nothing. But we were hardly
prepared to have it so confirmed by his appearance when Mr.
Jarndyce presented him. He was not only a very handsome old
gentleman--upright and stalwart as he had been described to us--
with a massive grey head, a fine composure of face when silent, a
figure that might have become corpulent but for his being so
continually in earnest that he gave it no rest, and a chin that
might have subsided into a double chin but for the vehement
emphasis in which it was constantly required to assist; but he was
such a true gentleman in his manner, so chivalrously polite, his
face was lighted by a smile of so much sweetness and tenderness,
and it seemed so plain that he had nothing to hide, but showed
himself exactly as he was--incapable, as Richard said, of anything
on a limited scale, and firing away with those blank great guns
because he carried no small arms whatever--that really I could not
help looking at him with equal pleasure as he sat at dinner,
whether he smilingly conversed with Ada and me, or was led by Mr.
Jarndyce into some great volley of superlatives, or threw up his
head like a bloodhound and gave out that tremendous "Ha, ha, ha!"
"You have brought your bird with you, I suppose?" said Mr.
"By heaven, he is the most astonishing bird in Europe!" replied the
other. "He IS the most wonderful creature! I wouldn't take ten
thousand guineas for that bird. I have left an annuity for his
sole support in case he should outlive me. He is, in sense and
attachment, a phenomenon. And his father before him was one of the
most astonishing birds that ever lived!"
The subject of this laudation was a very little canary, who was so
tame that he was brought down by Mr. Boythorn's man, on his
forefinger, and after taking a gentle flight round the room,
alighted on his master's head. To hear Mr. Boythorn presently
expressing the most implacable and passionate sentiments, with this
fragile mite of a creature quietly perched on his forehead, was to
have a good illustration of his character, I thought.
"By my soul, Jarndyce," he said, very gently holding up a bit of
bread to the canary to peck at, "if I were in your place I would
seize every master in Chancery by the throat to-morrow morning and
shake him until his money rolled out of his pockets and his bones
rattled in his skin. I would have a settlement out of somebody, by
fair means or by foul. If you would empower me to do it, I would
do it for you with the greatest satisfaction!" (All this time the
very small canary was eating out of his hand.)
"I thank you, Lawrence, but the suit is hardly at such a point at
present," returned Mr. Jarndyce, laughing, "that it would be
greatly advanced even by the legal process of shaking the bench and
the whole bar."
"There never was such an infernal cauldron as that Chancery on the
face of the earth!" said Mr. Boythorn. "Nothing but a mine below
it on a busy day in term time, with all its records, rules, and
precedents collected in it and every functionary belonging to it
also, high and low, upward and downward, from its son the
Accountant-General to its father the Devil, and the whole blown to
atoms with ten thousand hundredweight of gunpowder, would reform it
in the least!"
It was impossible not to laugh at the energetic gravity with which
he recommended this strong measure of reform. When we laughed, he
threw up his head and shook his broad chest, and again the whole
country seemed to echo to his "Ha, ha, ha!" It had not the least
effect in disturbing the bird, whose sense of security was complete
and who hopped about the table with its quick head now on this side
and now on that, turning its bright sudden eye on its master as if
he were no more than another bird.
"But how do you and your neighbour get on about the disputed right
of way?" said Mr. Jarndyce. "You are not free from the toils of
the law yourself!"
"The fellow has brought actions against ME for trespass, and I have
brought actions against HIM for trespass," returned Mr. Boythorn.
"By heaven, he is the proudest fellow breathing. It is morally
impossible that his name can be Sir Leicester. It must be Sir
"Complimentary to our distant relation!" said my guardian
laughingly to Ada and Richard.
"I would beg Miss Clare's pardon and Mr. Carstone's pardon,"
resumed our visitor, "if I were not reassured by seeing in the fair
face of the lady and the smile of the gentleman that it is quite
unnecessary and that they keep their distant relation at a
"Or he keeps us," suggested Richard.
"By my soul," exclaimed Mr. Boythorn, suddenly firing another
volley, "that fellow is, and his father was, and his grandfather
was, the most stiff-necked, arrogant imbecile, pig-headed numskull,
ever, by some inexplicable mistake of Nature, born in any station
of life but a walking-stick's! The whole of that family are the
most solemnly conceited and consummate blockheads! But it's no
matter; he should not shut up my path if he were fifty baronets
melted into one and living in a hundred Chesney Wolds, one within
another, like the ivory balls in a Chinese carving. The fellow, by
his agent, or secretary, or somebody, writes to me 'Sir Leicester
Dedlock, Baronet, presents his compliments to Mr. Lawrence
Boythorn, and has to call his attention to the fact that the green
pathway by the old parsonage-house, now the property of Mr.
Lawrence Boythorn, is Sir Leicester's right of way, being in fact a
portion of the park of chesney Wold, and that Sir Leicester finds
it convenient to close up the same.' I write to the fellow, 'Mr.
Lawrence Boythorn presents his compliments to Sir Leicester
Dedlock, Baronet, and has to call HIS attention to the fact that he
totally denies the whole of Sir Leicester Dedlock's positions on
every possible subject and has to add, in reference to closing up
the pathway, that he will be glad to see the man who may undertake
to do it.' The fellow sends a most abandoned villain with one eye
to construct a gateway. I play upon that execrable scoundrel with
a fire-engine until the breath is nearly driven out of his body.
The fellow erects a gate in the night. I chop it down and burn it
in the morning. He sends his myrmidons to come over the fence and
pass and repass. I catch them in humane man traps, fire split peas
at their legs, play upon them with the engine--resolve to free
mankind from the insupportable burden of the existence of those
lurking ruffians. He brings actions for trespass; I bring actions
for trespass. He brings actions for assault and battery; I defend
them and continue to assault and batter. Ha, ha, ha!"
To hear him say all this with unimaginable energy, one might have
thought him the angriest of mankind. To see him at the very same
time, looking at the bird now perched upon his thumb and softly
smoothing its feathers with his forefinger, one might have thought
him the gentlest. To hear him laugh and see the broad good nature
of his face then, one might have supposed that he had not a care in
the world, or a dispute, or a dislike, but that his whole existence
was a summer joke.
"No, no," he said, "no closing up of my paths by any Dedlock!
Though I willingly confess," here he softened in a moment, "that
Lady Dedlock is the most accomplished lady in the world, to whom I
would do any homage that a plain gentleman, and no baronet with a
head seven hundred years thick, may. A man who joined his regiment
at twenty and within a week challenged the most imperious and
presumptuous coxcomb of a commanding officer that ever drew the
breath of life through a tight waist--and got broke for it--is not
the man to be walked over by all the Sir Lucifers, dead or alive,
locked or unlocked. Ha, ha, ha!"
"Nor the man to allow his junior to be walked over either?" said my
"Most assuredly not!" said Mr. Boythorn, clapping him on the
shoulder with an air of protection that had something serious in
it, though he laughed. "He will stand by the low boy, always.
Jarndyce, you may rely upon him! But speaking of this trespass--
with apologies to Miss Clare and Miss Summerson for the length at
which I have pursued so dry a subject--is there nothing for me from
your men Kenge and Carboy?"
"I think not, Esther?" said Mr. Jarndyce.
"Much obliged!" said Mr. Boythorn. "Had no need to ask, after even
my slight experience of Miss Summerson's forethought for every one
about her." (They all encouraged me; they were determined to do
it.) "I inquired because, coming from Lincolnshire, I of course
have not yet been in town, and I thought some letters might have
been sent down here. I dare say they will report progress to-
I saw him so often in the course of the evening, which passed very
pleasantly, contemplate Richard and Ada with an interest and a
satisfaction that made his fine face remarkably agreeable as he sat
at a little distance from the piano listening to the music--and he
had small occasion to tell us that he was passionately fond of
music, for his face showed it--that I asked my guardian as we sat
at the backgammon board whether Mr. Boythorn had ever been married.
"No," said he. "No."
"But he meant to be!" said I.
"How did you find out that?" he returned with a smile. "Why,
guardian," I explained, not without reddening a little at hazarding
what was in my thoughts, "there is something so tender in his
manner, after all, and he is so very courtly and gentle to us, and
Mr. Jarndyce directed his eyes to where he was sitting as I have
just described him.
I said no more.
"You are right, little woman," he answered. "He was all but
married once. Long ago. And once."
"Did the lady die?"
"No--but she died to him. That time has had its influence on all
his later life. Would you suppose him to have a head and a heart
full of romance yet?"
"I think, guardian, I might have supposed so. But it is easy to
say that when you have told me so."
"He has never since been what he might have been," said Mr.
Jarndyce, "and now you see him in his age with no one near him but
his servant and his little yellow friend. It's your throw, my
I felt, from my guardian's manner, that beyond this point I could
not pursue the subject without changing the wind. I therefore
forbore to ask any further questions. I was interested, but not
curious. I thought a little while about this old love story in the
night, when I was awakened by Mr. Boythorn's lusty snoring; and I
tried to do that very difficult thing, imagine old people young
again and invested with the graces of youth. But I fell asleep
before I had succeeded, and dreamed of the days when I lived in my
godmother's house. I am not sufficiently acquainted with such
subjects to know whether it is at all remarkable that I almost
always dreamed of that period of my life.
With the morning there came a letter from Messrs. Kenge and Carboy
to Mr. Boythorn informing him that one of their clerks would wait
upon him at noon. As it was the day of the week on which I paid the
bills, and added up my books, and made all the household affairs as
compact as possible, I remained at home while Mr. Jarndyce, Ada, and
Richard took advantage of a very fine day to make a little
excursion, Mr. Boythorn was to wait for Kenge and Carboy's clerk and
then was to go on foot to meet them on their return.
Well! I was full of business, examining tradesmen's books, adding
up columns, paying money, filing receipts, and I dare say making a
great bustle about it when Mr. Guppy was announced and shown in. I
had had some idea that the clerk who was to be sent down might be
the young gentleman who had met me at the coach-office, and I was
glad to see him, because he was associated with my present
I scarcely knew him again, he was so uncommonly smart. He had an
entirely new suit of glossy clothes on, a shining hat, lilac-kid
gloves, a neckerchief of a variety of colours, a large hot-house
flower in his button-hole, and a thick gold ring on his little
finger. Besides which, he quite scented the dining-room with
bear's-grease and other perfumery. He looked at me with an
attention that quite confused me when I begged him to take a seat
until the servant should return; and as he sat there crossing and
uncrossing his legs in a corner, and I asked him if he had had a
pleasant ride, and hoped that Mr. Kenge was well, I never looked at
him, but I found him looking at me in the same scrutinizing and
When the request was brought to him that he would go upstairs to
Mr. Boythorn's room, I mentioned that he would find lunch prepared
for him when he came down, of which Mr. Jarndyce hoped he would
partake. He said with some embarrassment, holding the handle of the
door, "Shall I have the honour of finding you here, miss?" I
replied yes, I should be there; and he went out with a bow and
I thought him only awkward and shy, for he was evidently much
embarrassed; and I fancied that the best thing I could do would be
to wait until I saw that he had everything he wanted and then to
leave him to himself. The lunch was soon brought, but it remained
for some time on the table. The interview with Mr. Boythorn was a
long one, and a stormy one too, I should think, for although his
room was at some distance I heard his loud voice rising every now
and then like a high wind, and evidently blowing perfect broadsides
At last Mr. Guppy came back, looking something the worse for the
conference. "My eye, miss," he said in a low voice, "he's a
"Pray take some refreshment, sir," said I.
Mr. Guppy sat down at the table and began nervously sharpening the
carving-knife on the carving-fork, still looking at me (as I felt
quite sure without looking at him) in the same unusual manner. The
sharpening lasted so long that at last I felt a kind of obligation
on me to raise my eyes in order that I might break the spell under
which he seemed to labour, of not being able to leave off.
He immediately looked at the dish and began to carve.
"What will you take yourself, miss? You'll take a morsel of
"No, thank you," said I.
"Shan't I give you a piece of anything at all, miss?" said Mr.
Guppy, hurriedly drinking off a glass of wine.
"Nothing, thank you," said I. "I have only waited to see that you
have everything you want. Is there anything I can order for you?"
"No, I am much obliged to you, miss, I'm sure. I've everything that
I can require to make me comfortable--at least I--not comfortable--
I'm never that." He drank off two more glasses of wine, one after
I thought I had better go.
"I beg your pardon, miss!" said Mr. Guppy, rising when he saw me
rise. "But would you allow me the favour of a minute's private
Not knowing what to say, I sat down again.
"What follows is without prejudice, miss?" said Mr. Guppy, anxiously
bringing a chair towards my table.
"I don't understand what you mean," said I, wondering.
"It's one of our law terms, miss. You won't make any use of it to
my detriment at Kenge and Carboy's or elsewhere. If our
conversation shouldn't lead to anything, I am to be as I was and am
not to be prejudiced in my situation or worldly prospects. In
short, it's in total confidence."
"I am at a loss, sir," said I, "to imagine what you can have to
communicate in total confidence to me, whom you have never seen but
once; but I should be very sorry to do you any injury."
"Thank you, miss. I'm sure of it--that's quite sufficient." All
this time Mr. Guppy was either planing his forehead with his
handkerchief or tightly rubbing the palm of his left hand with the
palm of his right. "If you would excuse my taking another glass of
wine, miss, I think it might assist me in getting on without a
continual choke that cannot fail to be mutually unpleasant."
He did so, and came back again. I took the opportunity of moving
well behind my table.
"You wouldn't allow me to offer you one, would you miss?" said Mr.
Guppy, apparently refreshed.
"Not any," said I.
"Not half a glass?" said Mr. Guppy. "Quarter? No! Then, to
proceed. My present salary, Miss Summerson, at Kenge and Carboy's,
is two pound a week. When I first had the happiness of looking upon
you, it was one fifteen, and had stood at that figure for a
lengthened period. A rise of five has since taken place, and a
further rise of five is guaranteed at the expiration of a term not
exceeding twelve months from the present date. My mother has a
little property, which takes the form of a small life annuity, upon
which she lives in an independent though unassuming manner in the
Old Street Road. She is eminently calculated for a mother-in-law.
She never interferes, is all for peace, and her disposition easy.
She has her failings--as who has not?--but I never knew her do it
when company was present, at which time you may freely trust her
with wines, spirits, or malt liquors. My own abode is lodgings at
Penton Place, Pentonville. It is lowly, but airy, open at the back,
and considered one of the 'ealthiest outlets. Miss Summerson! In
the mildest language, I adore you. Would you be so kind as to allow
me (as I may say) to file a declaration--to make an offer!"
Mr. Guppy went down on his knees. I was well behind my table and
not much frightened. I said, "Get up from that ridiculous position
immediately, sir, or you will oblige me to break my implied promise
and ring the bell!"
"Hear me out, miss!" said Mr. Guppy, folding his hands.
"I cannot consent to hear another word, sir," I returned, "Unless
you get up from the carpet directly and go and sit down at the table
as you ought to do if you have any sense at all."
He looked piteously, but slowly rose and did so.
"Yet what a mockery it is, miss," he said with his hand upon his
heart and shaking his head at me in a melancholy manner over the
tray, "to be stationed behind food at such a moment. The soul
recoils from food at such a moment, miss."
"I beg you to conclude," said I; "you have asked me to hear you out,
and I beg you to conclude."
"I will, miss," said Mr. Guppy. "As I love and honour, so likewise
I obey. Would that I could make thee the subject of that vow before
"That is quite impossible," said I, "and entirely out of the
"I am aware," said Mr. Guppy, leaning forward over the tray and
regarding me, as I again strangely felt, though my eyes were not
directed to him, with his late intent look, "I am aware that in a
worldly point of view, according to all appearances, my offer is a
poor one. But, Miss Summerson! Angel! No, don't ring--I have been
brought up in a sharp school and am accustomed to a variety of
general practice. Though a young man, I have ferreted out evidence,
got up cases, and seen lots of life. Blest with your hand, what
means might I not find of advancing your interests and pushing your
fortunes! What might I not get to know, nearly concerning you? I
know nothing now, certainly; but what MIGHT I not if I had your
confidence, and you set me on?"
I told him that he addressed my interest or what he supposed to be
my interest quite as unsuccessfully as he addressed my inclination,
and he would now understand that I requested him, if he pleased, to
go away immediately.
"Cruel miss," said Mr. Guppy, "hear but another word! I think you
must have seen that I was struck with those charms on the day when I
waited at the Whytorseller. I think you must have remarked that I
could not forbear a tribute to those charms when I put up the steps
of the 'ackney-coach. It was a feeble tribute to thee, but it was
well meant. Thy image has ever since been fixed in my breast. I
have walked up and down of an evening opposite Jellyby's house only
to look upon the bricks that once contained thee. This out of to-
day, quite an unnecessary out so far as the attendance, which was
its pretended object, went, was planned by me alone for thee alone.
If I speak of interest, it is only to recommend myself and my
respectful wretchedness. Love was before it, and is before it."
"I should be pained, Mr. Guppy," said I, rising and putting my hand
upon the bell-rope, "to do you or any one who was sincere the
injustice of slighting any honest feeling, however disagreeably
expressed. If you have really meant to give me a proof of your good
opinion, though ill-timed and misplaced, I feel that I ought to
thank you. I have very little reason to be proud, and I am not
proud. I hope," I think I added, without very well knowing what I
said, "that you will now go away as if you had never been so
exceedingly foolish and attend to Messrs. Kenge and Carboy's
"Half a minute, miss!" cried Mr. Guppy, checking me as I was about
to ring. "This has been without prejudice?"
"I will never mention it," said I, "unless you should give me future
occasion to do so."
"A quarter of a minute, miss! In case you should think better at
any time, however distant--THAT'S no consequence, for my feelings
can never alter--of anything I have said, particularly what might I
not do, Mr. William Guppy, eighty-seven, Penton Place, or if
removed, or dead (of blighted hopes or anything of that sort), care
of Mrs. Guppy, three hundred and two, Old Street Road, will be
I rang the bell, the servant came, and Mr. Guppy, laying his written
card upon the table and making a dejected bow, departed. Raising my
eyes as he went out, I once more saw him looking at me after he had
passed the door.
I sat there for another hour or more, finishing my books and
payments and getting through plenty of business. Then I arranged my
desk, and put everything away, and was so composed and cheerful that
I thought I had quite dismissed this unexpected incident. But, when
I went upstairs to my own room, I surprised myself by beginning to
laugh about it and then surprised myself still more by beginning to
cry about it. In short, I was in a flutter for a little while and
felt as if an old chord had been more coarsely touched than it ever
had been since the days of the dear old doll, long buried in the
On the eastern borders of Chancery Lane, that is to say, more
particularly in Cook's Court, Cursitor Street, Mr. Snagsby, law-
stationer, pursues his lawful calling. In the shade of Cook's
Court, at most times a shady place, Mr. Snagsby has dealt in all
sorts of blank forms of legal process; in skins and rolls of
parchment; in paper--foolscap, brief, draft, brown, white, whitey-
brown, and blotting; in stamps; in office-quills, pens, ink, India-
rubber, pounce, pins, pencils, sealing-wax, and wafers; in red tape
and green ferret; in pocket-books, almanacs, diaries, and law lists;
in string boxes, rulers, inkstands--glass and leaden--pen-knives,
scissors, bodkins, and other small office-cutlery; in short, in
articles too numerous to mention, ever since he was out of his time
and went into partnership with Peffer. On that occasion, Cook's
Court was in a manner revolutionized by the new inscription in fresh
paint, PEFFER AND SNAGSBY, displacing the time-honoured and not
easily to be deciphered legend PEFFER only. For smoke, which is the
London ivy, had so wreathed itself round Peffer's name and clung to
his dwelling-place that the affectionate parasite quite overpowered
the parent tree.
Peffer is never seen in Cook's Court now. He is not expected there,
for he has been recumbent this quarter of a century in the
churchyard of St. Andrews, Holborn, with the waggons and hackney-
coaches roaring past him all the day and half the night like one
great dragon. If he ever steal forth when the dragon is at rest to
air himself again in Cook's Court until admonished to return by the
crowing of the sanguine cock in the cellar at the little dairy in
Cursitor Street, whose ideas of daylight it would be curious to
ascertain, since he knows from his personal observation next to
nothing about it--if Peffer ever do revisit the pale glimpses of
Cook's Court, which no law-stationer in the trade can positively
deny, he comes invisibly, and no one is the worse or wiser.
In his lifetime, and likewise in the period of Snagsby's "time" of
seven long years, there dwelt with Peffer in the same law-
stationering premises a niece--a short, shrewd niece, something too
violently compressed about the waist, and with a sharp nose like a
sharp autumn evening, inclining to be frosty towards the end. The
Cook's Courtiers had a rumour flying among them that the mother of
this niece did, in her daughter's childhood, moved by too jealous a
solicitude that her figure should approach perfection, lace her up
every morning with her maternal foot against the bed-post for a
stronger hold and purchase; and further, that she exhibited
internally pints of vinegar and lemon-juice, which acids, they held,
had mounted to the nose and temper of the patient. With whichsoever
of the many tongues of Rumour this frothy report originated, it
either never reached or never influenced the ears of young Snagsby,
who, having wooed and won its fair subject on his arrival at man's
estate, entered into two partnerships at once. So now, in Cook's
Court, Cursitor Street, Mr. Snagsby and the niece are one; and the
niece still cherishes her figure, which, however tastes may differ,
is unquestionably so far precious that there is mighty little of it.
Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby are not only one bone and one flesh, but, to
the neighbours' thinking, one voice too. That voice, appearing to
proceed from Mrs. Snagsby alone, is heard in Cook's Court very
often. Mr. Snagsby, otherwise than as he finds expression through
these dulcet tones, is rarely heard. He is a mild, bald, timid man
with a shining head and a scrubby clump of black hair sticking out
at the back. He tends to meekness and obesity. As he stands at his
door in Cook's Court in his grey shop-coat and black calico sleeves,
looking up at the clouds, or stands behind a desk in his dark shop
with a heavy flat ruler, snipping and slicing at sheepskin in
company with his two 'prentices, he is emphatically a retiring and
unassuming man. From beneath his feet, at such times, as from a
shrill ghost unquiet in its grave, there frequently arise
complainings and lamentations in the voice already mentioned; and
haply, on some occasions when these reach a sharper pitch than
usual, Mr. Snagsby mentions to the 'prentices, "I think my little
woman is a-giving it to Guster!"
This proper name, so used by Mr. Snagsby, has before now sharpened
the wit of the Cook's Courtiers to remark that it ought to be the
name of Mrs. Snagsby, seeing that she might with great force and
expression be termed a Guster, in compliment to her stormy
character. It is, however, the possession, and the only possession
except fifty shillings per annum and a very small box indifferently
filled with clothing, of a lean young woman from a workhouse (by
some supposed to have been christened Augusta) who, although she was
farmed or contracted for during her growing time by an amiable
benefactor of his species resident at Tooting, and cannot fail to
have been developed under the most favourable circumstances, "has
fits," which the parish can't account for.
Guster, really aged three or four and twenty, but looking a round
ten years older, goes cheap with this unaccountable drawback of
fits, and is so apprehensive of being returned on the hands of her
patron saint that except when she is found with her head in the
pail, or the sink, or the copper, or the dinner, or anything else
that happens to be near her at the time of her seizure, she is
always at work. She is a satisfaction to the parents and guardians
of the 'prentices, who feel that there is little danger of her
inspiring tender emotions in the breast of youth; she is a
satisfaction to Mrs. Snagsby, who can always find fault with her;
she is a satisfaction to Mr. Snagsby, who thinks it a charity to
keep her. The law-stationer's establishment is, in Guster's eyes, a
temple of plenty and splendour. She believes the little drawing-
room upstairs, always kept, as one may say, with its hair in papers
and its pinafore on, to be the most elegant apartment in
Christendom. The view it commands of Cook's Court at one end (not
to mention a squint into Cursitor Street) and of Coavinses' the
sheriff's officer's backyard at the other she regards as a prospect
of unequalled beauty. The portraits it displays in oil--and plenty
of it too--of Mr. Snagsby looking at Mrs. Snagsby and of Mrs.
Snagsby looking at Mr. Snagsby are in her eyes as achievements of
Raphael or Titian. Guster has some recompenses for her many
Mr. Snagsby refers everything not in the practical mysteries of the
business to Mrs. Snagsby. She manages the money, reproaches the
tax-gatherers, appoints the times and places of devotion on Sundays,
licenses Mr. Snagsby's entertainments, and acknowledges no
responsibility as to what she thinks fit to provide for dinner,
insomuch that she is the high standard of comparison among the
neighbouring wives a long way down Chancery Lane on both sides, and
even out in Holborn, who in any domestic passages of arms habitually
call upon their husbands to look at the difference between their
(the wives') position and Mrs. Snagsby's, and their (the husbands')
behaviour and Mr. Snagsby's. Rumour, always flying bat-like about
Cook's Court and skimming in and out at everybody's windows, does
say that Mrs. Snagsby is jealous and inquisitive and that Mr.
Snagsby is sometimes worried out of house and home, and that if he
had the spirit of a mouse he wouldn't stand it. It is even observed
that the wives who quote him to their self-willed husbands as a
shining example in reality look down upon him and that nobody does
so with greater superciliousness than one particular lady whose lord
is more than suspected of laying his umbrella on her as an
instrument of correction. But these vague whisperings may arise
from Mr. Snagsby's being in his way rather a meditative and poetical
man, loving to walk in Staple Inn in the summer-time and to observe
how countrified the sparrows and the leaves are, also to lounge
about the Rolls Yard of a Sunday afternoon and to remark (if in good
spirits) that there were old times once and that you'd find a stone
coffin or two now under that chapel, he'll be bound, if you was to
dig for it. He solaces his imagination, too, by thinking of the
many Chancellors and Vices, and Masters of the Rolls who are
deceased; and he gets such a flavour of the country out of telling
the two 'prentices how he HAS heard say that a brook "as clear as
crystial" once ran right down the middle of Holborn, when Turnstile
really was a turnstile, leading slap away into the meadows--gets
such a flavour of the country out of this that he never wants to go
The day is closing in and the gas is lighted, but is not yet fully
effective, for it is not quite dark. Mr. Snagsby standing at his
shop-door looking up at the clouds sees a crow who is out late skim
westward over the slice of sky belonging to Cook's Court. The crow
flies straight across Chancery Lane and Lincoln's Inn Garden into
Lincoln's Inn Fields.
Here, in a large house, formerly a house of state, lives Mr.
Tulkinghorn. It is let off in sets of chambers now, and in those
shrunken fragments of its greatness, lawyers lie like maggots in
nuts. But its roomy staircases, passages, and antechambers still
remain; and even its painted ceilings, where Allegory, in Roman
helmet and celestial linen, sprawls among balustrades and pillars,
flowers, clouds, and big-legged boys, and makes the head ache--as
would seem to be Allegory's object always, more or less. Here,
among his many boxes labelled with transcendent names, lives Mr.
Tulkinghorn, when not speechlessly at home in country-houses where
the great ones of the earth are bored to death. Here he is to-day,
quiet at his table. An oyster of the old school whom nobody can
Like as he is to look at, so is his apartment in the dusk of the
present afternoon. Rusty, out of date, withdrawing from attention,
able to afford it. Heavy, broad-backed, old-fashioned, mahogany-
and-horsehair chairs, not easily lifted; obsolete tables with
spindle-legs and dusty baize covers; presentation prints of the
holders of great titles in the last generation or the last but one,
environ him. A thick and dingy Turkey-carpet muffles the floor
where he sits, attended by two candles in old-fashioned silver
candlesticks that give a very insufficient light to his large room.
The titles on the backs of his books have retired into the binding;
everything that can have a lock has got one; no key is visible.
Very few loose papers are about. He has some manuscript near him,
but is not referring to it. With the round top of an inkstand and
two broken bits of sealing-wax he is silently and slowly working out
whatever train of indecision is in his mind. Now the inkstand top
is in the middle, now the red bit of sealing-wax, now the black bit.
That's not it. Mr. Tulkinghorn must gather them all up and begin
Here, beneath the painted ceiling, with foreshortened Allegory
staring down at his intrusion as if it meant to swoop upon him, and
he cutting it dead, Mr. Tulkinghorn has at once his house and
office. He keeps no staff, only one middle-aged man, usually a
little out at elbows, who sits in a high pew in the hall and is
rarely overburdened with business. Mr. Tulkinghorn is not in a
common way. He wants no clerks. He is a great reservoir of
confidences, not to be so tapped. His clients want HIM; he is all
in all. Drafts that he requires to be drawn are drawn by special-
pleaders in the temple on mysterious instructions; fair copies that
he requires to be made are made at the stationers', expense being no
consideration. The middle-aged man in the pew knows scarcely more
of the affairs of the peerage than any crossing-sweeper in Holborn.
The red bit, the black bit, the inkstand top, the other inkstand
top, the little sand-box. So! You to the middle, you to the right,
you to the left. This train of indecision must surely be worked out
now or never. Now! Mr. Tulkinghorn gets up, adjusts his
spectacles, puts on his hat, puts the manuscript in his pocket, goes
out, tells the middle-aged man out at elbows, "I shall be back
presently." Very rarely tells him anything more explicit.
Mr. Tulkinghorn goes, as the crow came--not quite so straight, but
nearly--to Cook's Court, Cursitor Street. To Snagsby's, Law-
Stationer's, Deeds engrossed and copied, Law-Writing executed in all
its branches, &c., &c., &c.
It is somewhere about five or six o'clock in the afternoon, and a
balmy fragrance of warm tea hovers in Cook's Court. It hovers about
Snagsby's door. The hours are early there: dinner at half-past one
and supper at half-past nine. Mr. Snagsby was about to descend into
the subterranean regions to take tea when he looked out of his door
just now and saw the crow who was out late.
"Master at home?"
Guster is minding the shop, for the 'prentices take tea in the
kitchen with Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby; consequently, the robe-maker's
two daughters, combing their curls at the two glasses in the two
second-floor windows of the opposite house, are not driving the two
'prentices to distraction as they fondly suppose, but are merely
awakening the unprofitable admiration of Guster, whose hair won't
grow, and never would, and it is confidently thought, never will.
"Master at home?" says Mr. Tulkinghorn.
Master is at home, and Guster will fetch him. Guster disappears,
glad to get out of the shop, which she regards with mingled dread
and veneration as a storehouse of awful implements of the great
torture of the law--a place not to be entered after the gas is
Mr. Snagsby appears, greasy, warm, herbaceous, and chewing. Bolts a
bit of bread and butter. Says, "Bless my soul, sir! Mr.
"I want half a word with you, Snagsby."
"Certainly, sir! Dear me, sir, why didn't you send your young man
round for me? Pray walk into the back shop, sir." Snagsby has
brightened in a moment.
The confined room, strong of parchment-grease, is warehouse,
counting-house, and copying-office. Mr. Tulkinghorn sits, facing
round, on a stool at the desk.
"Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Snagsby."
"Yes, sir." Mr. Snagsby turns up the ga
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