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his friends could wish him ? "

I thanked Mr. Vholes, and said he was quite well.

" I have not the pleasure to be admitted among the num-
ber of his friends myself," said Mr. Vholes, " and I am aware
that the gentlemen of our profession are sometimes regarded in
such quarters with unfavorable eye. Our plain course, how-
ever, under good report and evil report, and all kinds of preju-
dice (we are the victims of prejudice), is to have everything
openly carried on. How do you find Mr. C looking, Miss
Summerson ? "

" He looks very ill. Dreadfully anxious."

"Just so," said Mr. Vholes.

He stood behind me, with his long black figure reaching
nearly to the ceiling of those low rooms ; feeling the pimples
on his face as if they were ornaments, and speaking inwardly
and evenly as though there were not a human passion or emo-
tion in his nature.

" Mr. Woodcourt is in attendance upon Mr. C, I be-
lieve ? " he returned.

" Mr. Woodcourt is his disinterested friend," I an-
swered.

" But I mean in professional attendance, medical attend-
ance."

" That can do little for an unhappy mind," said I.

"Just so," said Mr. Vholes.

So slow, so eager, so bloodless and gaunt, I felt .as if
Richard were wasting away beneath the eyes of this adviser,
and there was something of the Vampire in him.

" Miss Summerson," said Mr. Vholes, very slowly rub-
bing his gloved hands, as if, to his cold sense of touch, they
were much the same in black kid or out of it, " this was an
ill-advised marriage of Mr. C's."

I begged he would excuse me for discussing it. They
had been engaged when they were both very young, I told
him (a little indignantly), and when the prospect before them
was much fairer and brighter. When Richard had not ) ielded






PERSPECTIVE. 805

himself to the unhappy influence which now darkened his
life.

"Just so," assented Mr. Vholes again. " Still with a view
to everything being openly carried on, I will, with your per-
mission, Miss Summerson, observe to you that I considei this-
a very ill-advised marriage indeed. I owe the opinion, not
only to Mr. C's connections, agaii-^ whom I should naturally
wish to protect myself, but also to my own reputation — dear
to myself, as a professional man aiming to keep respectable j
dear to my three girls at home, for whom I am striving to
realize some little independence ; dear, I will even say, to my
aged father, whom it is my privilege to support."

" It would become a very different marriage, a much hap-
pier and better marriage, another marriage altogether, Mr.
Vholes," said I, " if Richard were persuaded to turn his back
on the fatal pursuit in which you are engaged with him."

Mr. Vholes, with a noiseless cough — or rather gasp — into
one of his black gloves, inclined his head as if he did not
wholly dispute even that.

" Miss Summerson," he said, "it may be so ; and I freely
admit that the young lady who has taken Mr. C's name upon
herself in so ill-advised a manner — you will I am sure not quar-
rel with me for throwing out that remark again, as a duty I
owe to Mr. C's connections — is a highly genteel young lady.
Business has prevented me from mixing much with general
society in any but a professional character ; still I trust I am
competent to perceive that she is a highly genteel young lady.
As to beauty, I am not a judge of that myself, and I never
did give much attention to it from a boy ; but I dare say the
young lady is equally eligible, in that point of view. She is
considered so (I have heard) among the clerks in the Inn, and
it is a point more in their way than in mine. In reference
to Mr. C's pursuit of his interests "

" O ! His interests, Mr. Vholes ! "

" Pardon me," returned Mr. Vholes, going on in exactly
the same inward and dispassionate manner. " Mr. C takes
certain interests under certain wills disputed in the suit. It is
a term we use. In reference to Mr. C's pursuit of his inter-
ests, I mentioned to you, Miss Summerson, the first time I
had the pleasure of seeing you, in my desire that everything;
should be openly carried on — I used those words, for I hap-
pened afterwards to note them in my diary, which is produ-
cible at any time — I mentioned to you that Mr. C had laid



3o6 BLEAK HOUSE.

down the principle of watching his own interests ; and that
when a client of mine laid down a principle which was not of
an immoral (that is to say, unlawful) nature, it devolved upon
me to carry it out. I have carried it out ; I do carry it out.
But I will not smooth things over, to any connection of Mr.
C's, on any account. As open as I was to Mr. Jarndyce,
I am to you. I regard it in the light of a professional duty to
be so, though it can be charged to no one. I openly say,
unpalatable as it may be, that I consider Mr. C's affairs in a
very bad way, that I consider Mr. C himself in a very bad
way, and that I regard this as an exceedingly ill-advised mar-
riage. — Am I here, sir? Yes, I thank you ! I am here, Mr.
C, and enjoying the pleasure of some agreeable conversation
with Miss Summerson, for which I have to thank you very
-much, sir ! "

He broke off thus, in answer to Richard, who addressed
'him as he came into the room. By this time, I too well un-
derstood Mr. Vholes's scrupulous way of saving himself and
his respectability, not to feel that our worst fears did but keep
pace with his client's progress.

We sat down to dinner, and I had an opportunity of ob-
serving Richard anxiously. I was not disturbed by Mr.
Vholes (who took off his gloves to dine), though he sat oppo-
site to me at the small table ; for I doubt if, looking up at all,
he once removed his eyes from his host's face. I found Rich-
ard thin and languid, slovenly in his dress, abstracted in his
manner, forcing his spirits now and then, and at other inter-
vals relapsing into a dull thoughtfulness. About his large
bright eyes that used to be so merry, there was a wanness and
,a restlessness that changed them altogether. I cannot use
the expression that he looked old. There is a ruin of youth
which is not like age ; and into such a ruin Richard's youth
and youthful beauty had all fallen away.

He ate little, and seemed indifferent what it was ; showed
himself to be much more impatient than he used to be ; and
was quick, even with Ada. I thought at first, that his old
light-hearted manner was all gone ; but it shone out of him
sometimes, as I had occasionally known little momentary
glimpses of my own old face to look out upon me from the
jglass. His laugh had not quite left him either ; but it was
like the echo of a joyful sound, and that is always sorrowful.

Yet he was as glad as ever, in his old affectionate way, to
tiave me there ; and we talked of the old times pleasantly.






PERSPECTIVE. 807

These did not appear to be interesting to Mr. Vholes, though
he occasionally made a gasp which I believe was his smile.
He rose shortly after dinner, and said that with the permis-
sion of the ladies he would retire to his cffice.

" Always devoted to business, Vholes J" cried Richard.

" Yes, Mr. C," he returned, " the interests of clients are
never to be neglected, sir. They are paramount in the
thoughts of a professional man like myself who wishes to
preserve a good name among his fellow-practitioners and so-
ciety at large. My denying myself the pleasure of the pies-
ent agreeable conversation, may not be wholly irrespective of
your own interests, Mr. C."

Richard expressed himself quite sure of that, and lighted
Mr. Vholes out. On his return he told us, more than once, that
Vholes was a good fellow, a safe fellow, and a man who did
what he pretended to do, a very good fellow, indeed ! He
was so defiant about it, that it struck me he had begun to
doubt Mr. Vholes.

Then he threw himself on the sofa, tired out ; and Ada
and I put things to rights, for they had no other servant than
the woman who attended to the chambers. My dear girl had
a cottage piano there, and quietly sat down to sing some of
Richard's favorites ; the lamp being first removed into the
next room, as he complained of its hurting his eyes.

I sat between them, at my dear girl's side, and felt very
melancholy listening to her sweet voice. I think Richard did
too ; I think he darkened the room for that reason. She had
been singing some time, rising between whiles to bend over
him and speak to him, when Mr. Woodcourt came in. Then
he sat down by Richard ; and half playfully, half earnestly,,
quite naturally and easily, found out how he felt, and where
he had been all day. Presently he proposed to accompany
him in a short walk on one of the bridges, as it was a moon-
light airy night ; and Richard readily consenting, they went
out together.

They left my dear girl still sitting at the piano, and me
still sitting beside her. When they were gone out, I drew my
arm round her waist. She put her left hand in mine (I
was sitting on that side), but kept her right upon the keys —
going over and over them without striking any note.

" Esther, my dearest," she said, breaking silence, " Richard
is never so well, and I am never so easy about him, as when he
is with Allan Woodcourt. We have to thank you for that."



So8 BLEAK HOUSE.

I pointed out to my darling how this could scaicely be,
because Mr. Woodcourt had come to her cousin John's house,
and had known us all there' ; and because he had always liked
Richard, and Richard had always liked him, and — and so
forth.

"All true," said Ada; "but that he is such a devoted
friend to us, we owe to you."

I thought it best to let my dear girl have her way, and to
.say no more about it. So I said as much. I said it lightly,
because I felt her trembling.

" Esther, my dearest, I want to be a good wife, a very,
very good wife indeed. You shall teach me."

I teach ! I said no more ; for I noticed the hand that
•was fluttering over the keys, and 1 knew that it was not I who
ought to speak ; that it was she who had something to say to
me.

" When I married Richard, I was not insensible to what
was before him. I had been perfectly happy for a long time
with you, and I had never known any trouble or anxiety, so
loved and cared for ; but I understood the danger he was
in, dear Esther."

" I know, I know, my darling."

" When we were married, I had some little hope that I
might be able to convince him of his mistake ; that he might
come to regard it ina new way as my 'husband, and not pur-
sue it all the more desperately for my sake — as he does. But
if I had not had that hope, I would have married him just the
same, Esther. Just the same ! "

In the momentary firmness of the hand that was never
still — a firmness inspired by the utterance of these last words,
and dying away with them — I saw the confirmation of her
earnest tones.

" You are not to think, my dearest Esther, that I fail to
see what you see, and fear what you fear. No one can un-
derstand him better than I do. The greatest wisdom that
ever lived in the world could scarcely know Richard better
than my love does."

She spoke so modestly and softly, and her trembling hand
expressed such agitation, as it moved to and fro upon the
silent notes ! My dear, dear girl !

" I see him at his worst every day. I watch him in his
sleep. I know every change of his face. But when I mar-
ried Richard, I was quite determined, Esther, if Heaven



PERSPECTIVE- 5509

would help me, never to show him that I grieved for what he
did, and so to make him more unhappy. I want him when
he comes home, to find no trouble in my face. I want him,
when he looks at me, to see what he loved in me. I married
him to do this, and this supports me."

I felt her trembling more. I waited for what was yet to
come, and now I thought I began to know what it was.

" And something else supports me, Esther."

She stopped a minute. Stopped speaking only; her hand
was still in motion.

"I look forward a little while, and I don't know what
great aid may come to me. When Richard turns his eyes
upon me then, there may be something lying on my breast
more eloquent than I have been, with greater power than
mine to show him his true course, and win him back."

Her hand stopped now. She clasped me in her arms,
and I clasped her in mine.

" If that little creature should fail too, Esther, I still look
forward. I look forward a long while, through years and
years, and think that then, when I am growing old, or when
I am dead, perhaps, a beautiful woman, his daughter, hap-
pily married, may be proud of him, and a blessing to him.
Or that a generous, brave man, as handsome as he used to
be, as hopeful, and far more happy, may walk in the sunshine
with him, honoring his gray head, and saying to himself, ' I
thank God this is my father ! ruined by a fatal inheritance,
and restored through me ! '"

O, my sweet girl, what a heart was that which beat so fast
against me !

" These hopes uphold me, my dear Esther, and I know
they will. Though sometimes even they depart from me, be
fore a dread that arises when I look at Richard."

I tried to cheer my darling, and asked her what it was \
Sobbing and weeping, she replied :

" That he may not live to see his child."



8 1 o BLEAK HOUSE.

CHAPTER LXI.

A DISCOVERY.

The days when I frequented that miseiable corner which
ny dear girl brightened, can never fade in my remembrance.
I never see it, and I never wish to see it, now ; I have been
there only once since ; but in my memory there is a mournful
glory shining on the place, which will shine for ever.

Not a day passed without my going there, of course. At
first I found Mr. Skimpole there, on two or three occasions,
idly playing the piano, and talking in his usual vivacious
strain. Now, besides my very much mistrusting the proba-
bility of his being there without making Richard poorer, I felt
as if there were something in his careless gayety too inconsist-
ent with what I knew of the depths of Ada's life. I clearly
perceived, too, that Ada shared my feelings. I therefore re-
solved, after much thinking of it, to make a private visit to
Mr. Skimpole, and try delicately to explain myself. My dear
girl was the great consideration that made me bold.

I set off one morning, accompanied by Charley, for
Somers Town. As I approached the house, I was strongly
inclined to turn back, for I felt what a desperate attempt it
was to make an impression on Mr. Skimpole, and how ex-
tremely likely it was that he would signally defeat me. How-
ever, I thought that being there, I would go through with it.
I knocked with a trembling hand at Mr. Skimpole's door —
literally with a hand, for the knocker was gone — and after a
long parley gained admission from an Irishwoman, who was
in the area when I knocked, breaking up the lid of a water-
butt with a poker, to light the fire with.

Mr. Skimpole, lying on the sofa in his room, playing the
flute a little, was enchanted to see me. Now, who should re-
ceive me, he asked ? Who would I prefer for mistress of the
ceremonies ? Would I have his Comedy daughter, his Beauty
daughter, or his Sentiment daughter ? Or would I have all
the daughters at once, in a perfect nosegay ?

I replied, half defeated already, that I wished to speak to
himself only, if he would give me leave.

" My dear Miss Summerson, most joyfully 1 Of course,"



A DISCOVERY 8ll

\tt said, bringing his chair nearer mine, and breaking into his
fascinating smile, " of course it's not business. Then it's
pleasure ! "

I said it certainly was not business that I came upon, but
it was not quite a pleasant matter.

" Then, my dear Miss Summerson," said he, with the
frankest gayety, " don't allude to it. Why should you allude
to anything that is not a pleasant matter ? / never do. And
you are a much pleasanter creature, in every point of view,
than I. You are perfectly pleasant ; I am imperfectly pleas-
ant ; then, if 1 never allude to an unpleasant matter, how
much less should you ! So that's disposed of, and we will
talk of something else.''

Although I was embarrassed, I took courage to intimate
that I still wished to pursue the subject.

" I should think it a mistake," said Mr. Skimpole, with his
airy laugh, " if I thought Miss Summerson capable of making
one. But I don't ! "

" Mr. Skimpole," said I, raising my eyes to his, " I have
so often heard you say that you are unacquainted with the
common affairs of life "

" Meaning our three banking-house friends, L, S, and
who's the junior partner ? D ? " said Mr. Skimpole, brightly.
" Not an idea of them ! "

" — That, perhaps," I went on, " you will excuse my bold-
ness on that account. I think you ought most seriously to
know that Richard is poorer than he was."

"Dear me!" said Mr. Skimpole. "So am I, they tell
me."

" And in very embarrassed circumstances."

" Parallel case, exactly ! " said Mr. Skimpole, with a de-
lighted countenance.

"This at present naturally causes Ada much secret
anxiety ; and as I think she is less anxious when no claims
are made upon her by visitors, and as Richard has one un-
easiness always heavy on his mind, it has occurred to me to
take the liberty of saying that — if you would — not "

I was coming to the point with great difficulty, when he
took me by both hands, and with a radiant face and in the
liveliest way, anticipated it.

" Not go there ? Certainly not, my dear Miss Summer-
son, most assuredly not. Why should I go there ? When
I go anywhere, I go for pleasure. I don't go anywhere foj-



8 t 2 BLEAK HOUSE.

pain, because I was made for pleasure. Pain comes to mi
when it wants me. Now, I have had very little pleasure at
our dear Richard's lately, and your practical sagacity demon-
strates why. Our young friends, losing the youthful poetry
which was once so captivating in them, begin to think, ' this
is a man who wants pounds.' So I am ; I always want
pounds ; not for myself, but because tradespeople always want
them of me. Next, our young friends begin to think, becom-
ing mercenary, ' this is the man who had pounds, — who bor-
rowed them ; ' which I did. I always borrow pounds. So
our young friends, reduced to prose (which is much to be re-
gretted), degenerate in their power of imparting pleasure to
me. Why should I go to see them, therefore ? Absurd ! "

Through the beaming smile with which he regarded me,
as he reasoned thus, there now broke forth a look of disin-
terested benevolence quite astonishing.

" Besides," he said, pursuing his argument in his tone of
light-hearted conviction, " if I don't go anywhere for pain — ■
which would be a perversion of the intention of my being, and
a monstrous thing to do — why should I go anywhere to be
the cause of pain ? If I went to see our young friends in
their present ill-regulated state of mind, I should give them
pain. The associations with me would be disagreeable.
They might say, ' this is the man who had pounds, and who
can't pay pounds,' which I can't, of course ; nothing could be
more out of the question. Then, kindness requires that I
shouldn't go near them — and I won't."

I was much disconcerted ; but I reflected that if the main
point were gained, it mattered little how strangely he per-
verted everything leading to it. I had determined to men-
tion something else, however, and I thought I was not to be
put off in that.

" Mr. Skimpole," said I, "I must take the liberty of say-
ing, before I conclude my visit, that I was much surprised to
learn, on the best authority, some little time ago, that you
knew with whom that poor boy left Bleak House, and that you
accepted a present on that occasion. I have not mentioned
it to my guardian, for I fear it would hurt him unnecessarily ;
but I may say to you that I was much surprised."

" No ? Really surprised, my dear Miss Summerson ? " he
returned, inquiringly, raising his pleasant eyebrows.

" Greatly surprised."

He thought about it for a little while, with a highly agree-



DISCOVERY. 813

able and whimsical expression of face ; then quite gave it up,
and said, in his most engaging manner :

" You know what a child I am. Why surprised ? "

I was reluctant to enter minutely into that question ; but
as he begged I would, for he was really curious to know, I
gave him to understand, in the gentlest words I could use, that
hrs conduct seemed to involve a disregard of several moral
obligations. He was much amused and interested when he
heard this, and said, " No, really ? " with ingenuous simplicity.

" You know I don't intend to be responsible. I never
could do it. Responsibility is a thing that has always been
above me — or below me," said Mr. Skimpole, " I don't even
know which ; but, as I understand the way in which my dear
Miss Summerson (always remarkable for her practical good
sense and clearness) puts this case, I should imagine it was
chiefly a question of money, do you know ? "

I incautiously gave a qualified assent to this.

" Ah ! Then you see," said Mr. Skimpole, shaking his
head, " I am hopeless of understanding it."

I suggested, as I rose to go, that it was not right to betray
my guardian's confidence for a bribe.

" My dear Miss Summerson," he returned, with a candid
hilarity that was all his own ; " I can't be bribed."

" Not by Mr. Bucket ? " said I.

" No," said he. " Not by anybody. I don't attach any
value to money. I don't care about it, I don't know about
it, I don't want it, I don't keep it — it goes away from me
directly. How can /be bribed ? "

I snowed that I was of a different opinion, though I had
not the capacity for arguing the question.

" On the contrary," said Mr. Skimpole, " I am exactly the
man to be placed in a superior position, in such a case as
that. I am above the rest of mankind, in such a case as that.
I can act with philosophy, in such a case as that. I am not
warped by prejudices, as an Italian baby is by bandages. I
am as free as the air. I feel myself as far above suspicion as
Caesar's wife."

Anything to equal the lightness of his manner, and the
playful impartiality with which he seemed to convince himself,
as he tossed the matter about like a ball of feathers, was
surely never seen in anybody else !

" Observe the case, my dear Miss Summerson. Here is a
boy received into the house and put to bed, in a state that I



g j 4 BLEAK HO USE.

strongly object to. The boy being in bed, a man arrives—
like the house that Jack built. Here is the man who demand*
the boy who is received into the house and put to bed in a
state that I strongly object to. Here is a bank-note produced
by the man who demands the boy who is received into the
house and put to bed in a state that I strongly object to.
Here is the Skimpole who accepts the bank-note produced by
the man who demands the boy who is received into the house
and put to bed in a state that I strongly object to. Those
are the facts. Very well. Should the Skimpole have refused
the note ? Why should the Skimpole have refused the note ?
Skimpole protests to Bucket ; ' what's this for ? I don't under-
stand it, it is of no use to me, take it away.' Bucket still
entreats Skimpole to accept it. Are there reasons why Skim-
pole, not being warped by prejudices, should accept it ? Yes.
Skimpole perceives them. What are they ? Skimpole reasons
with himself, this is a tamed lynx, an active police-officer, an
intelligent man, a person of a peculiarly directed energy and
great subtlety both of conception and execution, who discov-
ers our friends and enemies for us when they run away, recov-
ers our property for us when we are robbed, avenges us com-
fortably when we are murdered. This active police-officer
and intelligent man has acquired, in the exercise of his art, a
strong faith in money ; he finds it very useful to him, and he
makes it very useful to society. Shall I shake that faith in
Bucket, because I want it myself ; shall I deliberately blunt
one of Bucket's weapons ; shall I positively paralyze Bucket
in his next detective operation ? And again. If it is blam-
able in Skimpole to take the note, it is blamable in Bucket
to offer the note — much more blameable in Bucket, because
he is the knowing man. Now, Skimpole wishes to think well
of Bucket ; Skimpole deems it essential, in its little place, to
the general cohesion of things, that he should think well of
Bucket. The State expressly asks him to trust to Bucket.
And he does. And that's all he does ! "

I had nothing to offer in reply to this exposition, and there-
fore took my leave. Mr. Skimpole, however, who was in excel-
lent spirits, would not hear of my returning home attended
.only by " Little Coavinses," and accompanied me himself.



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