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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBleak House - Chapter XIII - Esther's Narrative
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Bleak House - Chapter XIII - Esther's Narrative Post by :drevis Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :December 2010 Read :2941

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Bleak House - Chapter XIII - Esther's Narrative

Esther's Narrative


We held many consultations about what Richard was to be, first
without Mr. Jarndyce, as he had requested, and afterwards with him,
but it was a long time before we seemed to make progress. Richard
said he was ready for anything. When Mr. Jarndyce doubted whether
he might not already be too old to enter the Navy, Richard said he
had thought of that, and perhaps he was. When Mr. Jarndyce asked
him what he thought of the Army, Richard said he had thought of
that, too, and it wasn't a bad idea. When Mr. Jarndyce advised him
to try and decide within himself whether his old preference for the
sea was an ordinary boyish inclination or a strong impulse, Richard
answered, Well he really HAD tried very often, and he couldn't make
out.

"How much of this indecision of character," Mr. Jarndyce said to me,
"is chargeable on that incomprehensible heap of uncertainty and
procrastination on which he has been thrown from his birth, I don't
pretend to say; but that Chancery, among its other sins, is
responsible for some of it, I can plainly see. It has engendered or
confirmed in him a habit of putting off--and trusting to this, that,
and the other chance, without knowing what chance--and dismissing
everything as unsettled, uncertain, and confused. The character of
much older and steadier people may be even changed by the
circumstances surrounding them. It would be too much to expect that
a boy's, in its formation, should be the subject of such influences
and escape them."

I felt this to be true; though if I may venture to mention what I
thought besides, I thought it much to be regretted that Richard's
education had not counteracted those influences or directed his
character. He had been eight years at a public school and had
learnt, I understood, to make Latin verses of several sorts in the
most admirable manner. But I never heard that it had been anybody's
business to find out what his natural bent was, or where his
failings lay, or to adapt any kind of knowledge to HIM. HE had been
adapted to the verses and had learnt the art of making them to such
perfection that if he had remained at school until he was of age, I
suppose he could only have gone on making them over and over again
unless he had enlarged his education by forgetting how to do it.
Still, although I had no doubt that they were very beautiful, and
very improving, and very sufficient for a great many purposes of
life, and always remembered all through life, I did doubt whether
Richard would not have profited by some one studying him a little,
instead of his studying them quite so much.

To be sure, I knew nothing of the subject and do not even now know
whether the young gentlemen of classic Rome or Greece made verses to
the same extent--or whether the young gentlemen of any country ever
did.

"I haven't the least idea," said Richard, musing, "what I had better
be. Except that I am quite sure I don't want to go into the Church,
it's a toss-up."

"You have no inclination in Mr. Kenge's way?" suggested Mr.
Jarndyce.

"I don't know that, sir!" replied Richard. "I am fond of boating.
Articled clerks go a good deal on the water. It's a capital
profession!"

"Surgeon--" suggested Mr. Jarndyce.

"That's the thing, sir!" cried Richard.

I doubt if he had ever once thought of it before.

"That's the thing, sir," repeated Richard with the greatest
enthusiasm. "We have got it at last. M.R.C.S.!"

He was not to be laughed out of it, though he laughed at it
heartily. He said he had chosen his profession, and the more he
thought of it, the more he felt that his destiny was clear; the art
of healing was the art of all others for him. Mistrusting that he
only came to this conclusion because, having never had much chance
of finding out for himself what he was fitted for and having never
been guided to the discovery, he was taken by the newest idea and
was glad to get rid of the trouble of consideration, I wondered
whether the Latin verses often ended in this or whether Richard's
was a solitary case.

Mr. Jarndyce took great pains to talk with him seriously and to put
it to his good sense not to deceive himself in so important a
matter. Richard was a little grave after these interviews, but
invariably told Ada and me that it was all right, and then began to
talk about something else.

"By heaven!" cried Mr. Boythorn, who interested himself strongly in
the subject--though I need not say that, for he could do nothing
weakly; "I rejoice to find a young gentleman of spirit and gallantry
devoting himself to that noble profession! The more spirit there is
in it, the better for mankind and the worse for those mercenary
task-masters and low tricksters who delight in putting that
illustrious art at a disadvantage in the world. By all that is base
and despicable," cried Mr. Boythorn, "the treatment of surgeons
aboard ship is such that I would submit the legs--both legs--of
every member of the Admiralty Board to a compound fracture and
render it a transportable offence in any qualified practitioner to
set them if the system were not wholly changed in eight and forty
hours!"

"Wouldn't you give them a week?" asked Mr. Jarndyce.

"No!" cried Mr. Boythorn firmly. "Not on any consideration! Eight
and forty hours! As to corporations, parishes, vestry-boards, and
similar gatherings of jolter-headed clods who assemble to exchange
such speeches that, by heaven, they ought to be worked in
quicksilver mines for the short remainder of their miserable
existence, if it were only to prevent their detestable English from
contaminating a language spoken in the presence of the sun--as to
those fellows, who meanly take advantage of the ardour of gentlemen
in the pursuit of knowledge to recompense the inestimable services
of the best years of their lives, their long study, and their
expensive education with pittances too small for the acceptance of
clerks, I would have the necks of every one of them wrung and their
skulls arranged in Surgeons' Hall for the contemplation of the whole
profession in order that its younger members might understand from
actual measurement, in early life, HOW thick skulls may become!"

He wound up this vehement declaration by looking round upon us with
a most agreeable smile and suddenly thundering, "Ha, ha, ha!" over
and over again, until anybody else might have been expected to be
quite subdued by the exertion.

As Richard still continued to say that he was fixed in his choice
after repeated periods for consideration had been recommended by Mr.
Jarndyce and had expired, and he still continued to assure Ada and
me in the same final manner that it was "all right," it became
advisable to take Mr. Kenge into council. Mr. Kenge, therefore,
came down to dinner one day, and leaned back in his chair, and
turned his eye-glasses over and over, and spoke in a sonorous voice,
and did exactly what I remembered to have seen him do when I was a
little girl.

"Ah!" said Mr. Kenge. "Yes. Well! A very good profession, Mr.
Jarndyce, a very good profession."

"The course of study and preparation requires to be diligently
pursued," observed my guardian with a glance at Richard.

"Oh, no doubt," said Mr. Kenge. "Diligently."

"But that being the case, more or less, with all pursuits that are
worth much," said Mr. Jarndyce, "it is not a special consideration
which another choice would be likely to escape."

"Truly," said Mr. Kenge. "And Mr. Richard Carstone, who has so
meritoriously acquitted himself in the--shall I say the classic
shades?--in which his youth had been passed, will, no doubt, apply
the habits, if not the principles and practice, of versification in
that tongue in which a poet was said (unless I mistake) to be born,
not made, to the more eminently practical field of action on which
he enters."

"You may rely upon it," said Richard in his off-hand manner, "that I
shall go at it and do my best."

"Very well, Mr. Jarndyce!" said Mr. Kenge, gently nodding his head.
"Really, when we are assured by Mr. Richard that he means to go at
it and to do his best," nodding feelingly and smoothly over those
expressions, "I would submit to you that we have only to inquire
into the best mode of carrying out the object of his ambition. Now,
with reference to placing Mr. Richard with some sufficiently eminent
practitioner. Is there any one in view at present?"

"No one, Rick, I think?" said my guardian.

"No one, sir," said Richard.

"Quite so!" observed Mr. Kenge. "As to situation, now. Is there
any particular feeling on that head?"

"N--no," said Richard.

"Quite so!" observed Mr. Kenge again.

"I should like a little variety," said Richard; "I mean a good range
of experience."

"Very requisite, no doubt," returned Mr. Kenge. "I think this may
be easily arranged, Mr. Jarndyce? We have only, in the first place,
to discover a sufficiently eligible practitioner; and as soon as we
make our want--and shall I add, our ability to pay a premium?--
known, our only difficulty will be in the selection of one from a
large number. We have only, in the second place, to observe those
little formalities which are rendered necessary by our time of life
and our being under the guardianship of the court. We shall soon
be--shall I say, in Mr. Richard's own light-hearted manner, 'going
at it'--to our heart's content. It is a coincidence," said Mr.
Kenge with a tinge of melancholy in his smile, "one of those
coincidences which may or may not require an explanation beyond our
present limited faculties, that I have a cousin in the medical
profession. He might be deemed eligible by you and might be
disposed to respond to this proposal. I can answer for him as
little as for you, but he MIGHT!"

As this was an opening in the prospect, it was arranged that Mr.
Kenge should see his cousin. And as Mr. Jarndyce had before
proposed to take us to London for a few weeks, it was settled next
day that we should make our visit at once and combine Richard's
business with it.

Mr. Boythorn leaving us within a week, we took up our abode at a
cheerful lodging near Oxford Street over an upholsterer's shop.
London was a great wonder to us, and we were out for hours and hours
at a time, seeing the sights, which appeared to be less capable of
exhaustion than we were. We made the round of the principal
theatres, too, with great delight, and saw all the plays that were
worth seeing. I mention this because it was at the theatre that I
began to be made uncomfortable again by Mr. Guppy.

I was sitting in front of the box one night with Ada, and Richard
was in the place he liked best, behind Ada's chair, when, happening
to look down into the pit, I saw Mr. Guppy, with his hair flattened
down upon his head and woe depicted in his face, looking up at me.
I felt all through the performance that he never looked at the
actors but constantly looked at me, and always with a carefully
prepared expression of the deepest misery and the profoundest
dejection.

It quite spoiled my pleasure for that night because it was so very
embarrassing and so very ridiculous. But from that time forth, we
never went to the play without my seeing Mr. Guppy in the pit,
always with his hair straight and flat, his shirt-collar turned
down, and a general feebleness about him. If he were not there when
we went in, and I began to hope he would not come and yielded myself
for a little while to the interest of the scene, I was certain to
encounter his languishing eyes when I least expected it and, from
that time, to be quite sure that they were fixed upon me all the
evening.

I really cannot express how uneasy this made me. If he would only
have brushed up his hair or turned up his collar, it would have been
bad enough; but to know that that absurd figure was always gazing at
me, and always in that demonstrative state of despondency, put such
a constraint upon me that I did not like to laugh at the play, or to
cry at it, or to move, or to speak. I seemed able to do nothing
naturally. As to escaping Mr. Guppy by going to the back of the
box, I could not bear to do that because I knew Richard and Ada
relied on having me next them and that they could never have talked
together so happily if anybody else had been in my place. So there
I sat, not knowing where to look--for wherever I looked, I knew Mr.
Guppy's eyes were following me--and thinking of the dreadful expense
to which this young man was putting himself on my account.

Sometimes I thought of telling Mr. Jarndyce. Then I feared that the
young man would lose his situation and that I might ruin him.
Sometimes I thought of confiding in Richard, but was deterred by the
possibility of his fighting Mr. Guppy and giving him black eyes.
Sometimes I thought, should I frown at him or shake my head. Then I
felt I could not do it. Sometimes I considered whether I should
write to his mother, but that ended in my being convinced that to
open a correspondence would he to make the matter worse. I always
came to the conclusion, finally, that I could do nothing. Mr.
Guppy's perseverance, all this time, not only produced him regularly
at any theatre to which we went, but caused him to appear in the
crowd as we were coming out, and even to get up behind our fly--
where I am sure I saw him, two or three times, struggling among the
most dreadful spikes. After we got home, he haunted a post opposite
our house. The upholsterer's where we lodged being at the corner of
two streets, and my bedroom window being opposite the post, I was
afraid to go near the window when I went upstairs, lest I should see
him (as I did one moonlight night) leaning against the post and
evidenfly catching cold. If Mr. Guppy had not been, fortunately for
me, engaged in the daytime, I really should have had no rest from
him.

While we were making this round of gaieties, in which Mr. Guppy so
extraordinarily participated, the business which had helped to bring
us to town was not neglected. Mr. Kenge's cousin was a Mr. Bayham
Badger, who had a good practice at Chelsea and attended a large
public institution besides. He was quite willing to receive Richard
into his house and to superintend his studies, and as it seemed that
those could be pursued advantageously under Mr. Badger's roof, and
Mr. Badger liked Richard, and as Richard said he liked Mr. Badger
"well enough," an agreement was made, the Lord Chancellor's consent
was obtained, and it was all settled.

On the day when matters were concluded between Richard and Mr.
Badger, we were all under engagement to dine at Mr. Badger's house.
We were to be "merely a family party," Mrs. Badger's note said; and
we found no lady there but Mrs. Badger herself. She was surrounded
in the drawing-room by various objects, indicative of her painting a
little, playing the piano a little, playing the guitar a little,
playing the harp a little, singing a little, working a little,
reading a little, writing poetry a little, and botanizing a little.
She was a lady of about fifty, I should think, youthfully dressed,
and of a very fine complexion. If I add to the little list of her
accomplishments that she rouged a little, I do not mean that there
was any harm in it.

Mr. Bayham Badger himself was a pink, fresh-faced, crisp-looking
gentleman with a weak voice, white teeth, light hair, and surprised
eyes, some years younger, I should say, than Mrs. Bayham Badger. He
admired her exceedingly, but principally, and to begin with, on the
curious ground (as it seemed to us) of her having had three
husbands. We had barely taken our seats when he said to Mr.
Jarndyce quite triumphantly, "You would hardly suppose that I am
Mrs. Bayham Badger's third!"

"Indeed?" said Mr. Jarndyce.

"Her third!" said Mr. Badger. "Mrs. Bayham Badger has not the
appearance, Miss Summerson, of a lady who has had two former
husbands?"

I said "Not at all!"

"And most remarkable men!" said Mr. Badger in a tone of confidence.
"Captain Swosser of the Royal Navy, who was Mrs. Badger's first
husband, was a very distinguished officer indeed. The name of
Professor Dingo, my immediate predecessor, is one of European
reputation."

Mrs. Badger overheard him and smiled.

"Yes, my dear!" Mr. Badger replied to the smile, "I was observing to
Mr. Jarndyce and Miss Summerson that you had had two former
husbands--both very distinguished men. And they found it, as people
generally do, difficult to believe."

"I was barely twenty," said Mrs. Badger, "when I married Captain
Swosser of the Royal Navy. I was in the Mediterranean with him; I
am quite a sailor. On the twelfth anniversary of my wedding-day, I
became the wife of Professor Dingo."

"Of European reputation," added Mr. Badger in an undertone.

"And when Mr. Badger and myself were married," pursued Mrs. Badger,
"we were married on the same day of the year. I had become attached
to the day."

"So that Mrs. Badger has been married to three husbands--two of them
highly distinguished men," said Mr. Badger, summing up the facts,
"and each time upon the twenty-first of March at eleven in the
forenoon!"

We all expressed our admiration.

"But for Mr. Badger's modesty," said Mr. Jarndyce, "I would take
leave to correct him and say three distinguished men."

"Thank you, Mr. Jarndyce! What I always tell him!" observed Mrs.
Badger.

"And, my dear," said Mr. Badger, "what do I always tell you? That
without any affectation of disparaging such professional distinction
as I may have attained (which our friend Mr. Carstone will have many
opportunities of estimating), I am not so weak--no, really," said
Mr. Badger to us generally, "so unreasonable--as to put my
reputation on the same footing with such first-rate men as Captain
Swosser and Professor Dingo. Perhaps you may be interested, Mr.
Jarndyce," continued Mr. Bayham Badger, leading the way into the
next drawing-room, "in this portrait of Captain Swosser. It was
taken on his return home from the African station, where he had
suffered from the fever of the country. Mrs. Badger considers it
too yellow. But it's a very fine head. A very fine head!"

We all echoed, "A very fine head!"

"I feel when I look at it," said Mr. Badger, "'That's a man I should
like to have seen!' It strikingly bespeaks the first-class man that
Captain Swosser pre-eminently was. On the other side, Professor
Dingo. I knew him well--attended him in his last illness--a
speaking likeness! Over the piano, Mrs. Bayham Badger when Mrs.
Swosser. Over the sofa, Mrs. Bayham Badger when Mrs. Dingo. Of
Mrs. Bayham Badger IN ESSE, I possess the original and have no
copy."

Dinner was now announced, and we went downstairs. It was a very
genteel entertainment, very handsomely served. But the captain and
the professor still ran in Mr. Badger's head, and as Ada and I had
the honour of being under his particular care, we had the full
benefit of them.

"Water, Miss Summerson? Allow me! Not in that tumbler, pray.
Bring me the professor's goblet, James!"

Ada very much admired some artificial flowers under a glass.

"Astonishing how they keep!" said Mr. Badger. "They were presented
to Mrs. Bayham Badger when she was in the Mediterranean."

He invited Mr. Jarndyce to take a glass of claret.

"Not that claret!" he said. "Excuse me! This is an occasion, and
ON an occasion I produce some very special claret I happen to have.
(James, Captain Swosser's wine!) Mr. Jarndyce, this is a wine that
was imported by the captain, we will not say how many years ago.
You will find it very curious. My dear, I shall he happy to take
some of this wine with you. (Captain Swosser's claret to your
mistress, James!) My love, your health!"

After dinner, when we ladies retired, we took Mrs. Badger's first
and second husband with us. Mrs. Badger gave us in the drawing-room
a biographical sketch of the life and services of Captain Swosser
before his marriage and a more minute account of him dating from the
time when he fell in love with her at a ball on board the Crippler,
given to the officers of that ship when she lay in Plymouth Harbour.

"The dear old Crippler!" said Mrs. Badger, shaking her head. "She
was a noble vessel. Trim, ship-shape, all a taunto, as Captain
Swosser used to say. You must excuse me if I occasionally introduce
a nautical expression; I was quite a sailor once. Captain Swosser
loved that craft for my sake. When she was no longer in commission,
he frequently said that if he were rich enough to buy her old hulk,
he would have an inscription let into the timbers of the quarter-
deck where we stood as partners in the dance to mark the spot where
he fell--raked fore and aft (Captain Swosser used to say) by the
fire from my tops. It was his naval way of mentioning my eyes."

Mrs. Badger shook her head, sighed, and looked in the glass.

"It was a great change from Captain Swosser to Professor Dingo," she
resumed with a plaintive smile. "I felt it a good deal at first.
Such an entire revolution in my mode of life! But custom, combined
with science--particularly science--inured me to it. Being the
professor's sole companion in his botanical excursions, I almost
forgot that I had ever been afloat, and became quite learned. It is
singular that the professor was the antipodes of Captain Swosser and
that Mr. Badger is not in the least like either!"

We then passed into a narrative of the deaths of Captain Swosser and
Professor Dingo, both of whom seem to have had very bad complaints.
In the course of it, Mrs. Badger signified to us that she had never
madly loved but once and that the object of that wild affection,
never to be recalled in its fresh enthusiasm, was Captain Swosser.
The professor was yet dying by inches in the most dismal manner, and
Mrs. Badger was giving us imitations of his way of saying, with
great difficulty, "Where is Laura? Let Laura give me my toast and
water!" when the entrance of the gentlemen consigned him to the
tomb.

Now, I observed that evening, as I had observed for some days past,
that Ada and Richard were more than ever attached to each other's
society, which was but natural, seeing that they were going to be
separated so soon. I was therefore not very much surprised when we
got home, and Ada and I retired upstairs, to find Ada more silent
than usual, though I was not quite prepared for her coming into my
arms and beginning to speak to me, with her face hidden.

"My darling Esther!" murmured Ada. "I have a great secret to tell
you!"

A mighty secret, my pretty one, no doubt!

"What is it, Ada?"

"Oh, Esther, you would never guess!"

"Shall I try to guess?" said I.

"Oh, no! Don't! Pray don't!" cried Ada, very much startled by the
idea of my doing so.

"Now, I wonder who it can be about?" said I, pretending to consider.

"It's about--" said Ada in a whisper. "It's about--my cousin
Richard!"

"Well, my own!" said I, kissing her bright hair, which was all I
could see. "And what about him?"

"Oh, Esther, you would never guess!"

It was so pretty to have her clinging to me in that way, hiding her
face, and to know that she was not crying in sorrow but in a little
glow of joy, and pride, and hope, that I would not help her just
yet.

"He says--I know it's very foolish, we are both so young--but he
says," with a burst of tears, "that he loves me dearly, Esther."

"Does he indeed?" said I. "I never heard of such a thing! Why, my
pet of pets, I could have told you that weeks and weeks ago!"

To see Ada lift up her flushed face in joyful surprise, and hold me
round the neck, and laugh, and cry, and blush, was so pleasant!

"Why, my darling," said I, "what a goose you must take me for! Your
cousin Richard has been loving you as plainly as he could for I
don't know how long!"

"And yet you never said a word about it!" cried Ada, kissing me.

"No, my love," said I. "I waited to be told."

"But now I have told you, you don't think it wrong of me, do you?"
returned Ada. She might have coaxed me to say no if I had been the
hardest-hearted duenna in the world. Not being that yet, I said no
very freely.

"And now," said I, "I know the worst of it."

"Oh, that's not quite the worst of it, Esther dear!" cried Ada,
holding me tighter and laying down her face again upon my breast.

"No?" said I. "Not even that?"

"No, not even that!" said Ada, shaking her head.

"Why, you never mean to say--" I was beginning in joke.

But Ada, looking up and smiling through her tear's, cried, "Yes, I
do! You know, you know I do!" And then sobbed out, "With all my
heart I do! With all my whole heart, Esther!"

I told her, laughing, why I had known that, too, just as well as I
had known the other! And we sat before the fire, and I had all the
talking to myself for a little while (though there was not much of
it); and Ada was soon quiet and happy.

"Do you think my cousin John knows, dear Dame Durden?" she asked.

"Unless my cousin John is blind, my pet," said I, "I should think my
cousin John knows pretty well as much as we know."

"We want to speak to him before Richard goes," said Ada timidly,
"and we wanted you to advise us, and to tell him so. Perhaps you
wouldn't mind Richard's coming in, Dame Durden?"

"Oh! Richard is outside, is he, my dear?" said I.

"I am not quite certain," returned Ada with a bashful simplicity
that would have won my heart if she had not won it long before, "but
I think he's waiting at the door."

There he was, of course. They brought a chair on either side of me,
and put me between them, and really seemed to have fallen in love
with me instead of one another, they were so confiding, and so
trustful, and so fond of me. They went on in their own wild way for
a little while--I never stopped them; I enjoyed it too much myself--
and then we gradually fell to considering how young they were, and
how there must be a lapse of several years before this early love
could come to anything, and how it could come to happiness only if
it were real and lasting and inspired them with a steady resolution
to do their duty to each other, with constancy, fortitude, and
perseverance, each always for the other's sake. Well! Richard said
that he would work his fingers to the bone for Ada, and Ada said
that she would work her fingers to the bone for Richard, and they
called me all sorts of endearing and sensible names, and we sat
there, advising and talking, half the night. Finally, before we
parted, I gave them my promise to speak to their cousin John to-
morrow.

So, when to-morrow came, I went to my guardian after breakfast, in
the room that was our town-substitute for the growlery, and told him
that I had it in trust to tell him something.

"Well, little woman," said he, shutting up his book, "if you have
accepted the trust, there can be no harm in it."

"I hope not, guardian," said I. "I can guarantee that there is no
secrecy in it. For it only happened yesterday."

"Aye? And what is it, Esther?"

"Guardian," said I, "you remember the happy night when first we came
down to Bleak House? When Ada was singing in the dark room?"

I wished to call to his remembrance the look he had given me then.
Unless I am much mistaken, I saw that I did so.

"Because--" said I with a little hesitation.

"Yes, my dear!" said he. "Don't hurry."

"Because," said I, "Ada and Richard have fallen in love. And have
told each other so."

"Already!" cried my guardian, quite astonished.

"Yes!" said I. "And to tell you the truth, guardian, I rather
expected it."

"The deuce you did!" said he.

He sat considering for a minute or two, with his smile, at once so
handsome and so kind, upon his changing face, and then requested me
to let them know that he wished to see them. When they came, he
encircled Ada with one arm in his fatherly way and addressed himself
to Richard with a cheerful gravity.

"Rick," said Mr. Jarndyce, "I am glad to have won your confidence.
I hope to preserve it. When I contemplated these relations between
us four which have so brightened my life and so invested it with new
interests and pleasures, I certainly did contemplate, afar off, the
possibility of you and your pretty cousin here (don't be shy, Ada,
don't be shy, my dear!) being in a mind to go through life together.
I saw, and do see, many reasons to make it desirable. But that was
afar off, Rick, afar off!"

"We look afar off, sir," returned Richard.

"Well!" said Mr. Jarndyce. "That's rational. Now, hear me, my
dears! I might tell you that you don't know your own minds yet,
that a thousand things may happen to divert you from one another,
that it is well this chain of flowers you have taken up is very
easily broken, or it might become a chain of lead. But I will not
do that. Such wisdom will come soon enough, I dare say, if it is to
come at all. I will assume that a few years hence you will be in
your hearts to one another what you are to-day. All I say before
speaking to you according to that assumption is, if you DO change--
if you DO come to find that you are more commonplace cousins to each
other as man and woman than you were as boy and girl (your manhood
will excuse me, Rick!)--don't be ashamed still to confide in me, for
there will be nothing monstrous or uncommon in it. I am only your
friend and distant kinsman. I have no power over you whatever. But
I wish and hope to retain your confidence if I do nothing to forfeit
it."

"I am very sure, sir," returned Richard, "that I speak for Ada too
when I say that you have the strongest power over us both--rooted in
respect, gratitude, and affection--strengthening every day."

"Dear cousin John," said Ada, on his shoulder, "my father's place
can never be empty again. All the love and duty I could ever have
rendered to him is transferred to you."

"Come!" said Mr. Jarndyce. "Now for our assumption. Now we lift
our eyes up and look hopefully at the distance! Rick, the world is
before you; and it is most probable that as you enter it, so it will
receive you. Trust in nothing but in Providence and your own
efforts. Never separate the two, like the heathen waggoner.
Constancy in love is a good thing, but it means nothing, and is
nothing, without constancy in every kind of effort. If you had the
abilities of all the great men, past and present, you could do
nothing well without sincerely meaning it and setting about it. If
you entertain the supposition that any real success, in great things
or in small, ever was or could be, ever will or can be, wrested from
Fortune by fits and starts, leave that wrong idea here or leave your
cousin Ada here."

"I will leave IT here, sir," replied Richard smiling, "if I brought
it here just now (but I hope I did not), and will work my way on to
my cousin Ada in the hopeful distance."

"Right!" said Mr. Jarndyce. "If you are not to make her happy, why
should you pursue her?"

"I wouldn't make her unhappy--no, not even for her love," retorted
Richard proudly.

"Well said!" cried Mr. Jarndyce. "That's well said! She remains
here, in her home with me. Love her, Rick, in your active life, no
less than in her home when you revisit it, and all will go well.
Otherwise, all will go ill. That's the end of my preaching. I
think you and Ada had better take a walk."

Ada tenderly embraced him, and Richard heartily shook hands with
him, and then the cousins went out of the room, looking back again
directly, though, to say that they would wait for me.

The door stood open, and we both followed them with our eyes as
they passed down the adjoining room, on which the sun was shining,
and out at its farther end. Richard with his head bent, and her
hand drawn through his arm, was talking to her very earnestly; and
she looked up in his face, listening, and seemed to see nothing
else. So young, so beautiful, so full of hope and promise, they
went on lightly through the sunlight as their own happy thoughts
might then be traversing the years to come and making them all
years of brightness. So they passed away into the shadow and were
gone. It was only a burst of light that had been so radiant. The
room darkened as they went out, and the sun was clouded over.

"Am I right, Esther?" said my guardian when they were gone.

He was so good and wise to ask ME whether he was right!

"Rick may gain, out of this, the quality he wants. Wants, at the
core of so much that is good!" said Mr. Jarndyce, shaking his head.
"I have said nothing to Ada, Esther. She has her friend and
counsellor always near." And he laid his hand lovingly upon my
head.

I could not help showing that I was a little moved, though I did
all I could to conceal it.

"Tut tut!" said he. "But we must take care, too, that our little
woman's life is not all consumed in care for others."

"Care? My dear guardian, I believe I am the happiest creature in
the world!"

"I believe so, too," said he. "But some one may find out what
Esther never will--that the little woman is to be held in
remembrance above all other people!"

I have omitted to mention in its place that there was some one else
at the family dinner party. It was not a lady. It was a
gentleman. It was a gentleman of a dark complexion--a young
surgeon. He was rather reserved, but I thought him very sensible
and agreeable. At least, Ada asked me if I did not, and I said
yes.

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Richard left us on the very next evening to begin his new career, and committed Ada to my charge with great love for her and great trust in me. It touched me then to reflect, and it touches me now, more nearly, to remember (having what I have to tell) how they both thought of me, even at that engrossing time. I was a part of all their plans, for the present and the future, I was to write Richard once a week, making my faithful report of Ada, who was to write to him every alternate day.
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