I proceed to other passages of my narrative. From the goodness of all about me I derived such consolation as I can never think of unmoved. I have already said so much of myself, and so much still remains, that I will not dwell upon my sorrow. I had an illness, but it was not a long one; and I would avoid even this mention of it if I could quite keep down the recollection of their sympathy.
I proceed to other passages of my narrative.
During the time of my illness, we were still in London, where Mrs. Woodcourt had come, on my guardian's invitation, to stay with us. When my guardian thought me well and cheerful enough to talk with him in our old way — though I could have done that sooner if he would have believed me — I resumed my work and my chair beside his. He had appointed the time himself, and we were alone.
"Dame Trot," said he, receiving me with a kiss, "welcome to the growlery again, my dear. I have a scheme to develop, little woman. I propose to remain here, perhaps for six months, perhaps for a longer time — as it may be. Quite to settle here for a while, in short."
"And in the meanwhile leave Bleak House?" said I.
"Aye, my dear? Bleak House," he returned, "must learn to take care of itself."
I thought his tone sounded sorrowful, but looking at him, I saw his kind face lighted up by its pleasantest smile.
"Bleak House," he repeated — and his tone did NOT sound sorrowful, I found — "must learn to take care of itself. It is a long way from Ada, my dear, and Ada stands much in need of you."
"It's like you, guardian," said I, "to have been taking that into consideration for a happy surprise to both of us."
"Not so disinterested either, my dear, if you mean to extol me for that virtue, since if you were generally on the road, you could be seldom with me. And besides, I wish to hear as much and as often of Ada as I can in this condition of estrangement from poor Rick. Not of her alone, but of him too, poor fellow."
"Have you seen Mr. Woodcourt, this morning, guardian?"
"I see Mr. Woodcourt every morning, Dame Durden."
"Does he still say the same of Richard?"
"Just the same. He knows of no direct bodily illness that he has; on the contrary, he believes that he has none. Yet he is not easy about him; who CAN be?"
My dear girl had been to see us lately every day, some times twice in a day. But we had foreseen, all along, that this would only last until I was quite myself. We knew full well that her fervent heart was as full of affection and gratitude towards her cousin John as it had ever been, and we acquitted Richard of laying any injunctions upon her to stay away; but we knew on the other hand that she felt it a part of her duty to him to be sparing of her visits at our house. My guardian's delicacy had soon perceived this and had tried to convey to her that he thought she was right.
"Dear, unfortunate, mistaken Richard," said I. "When will he awake from his delusion!"
"He is not in the way to do so now, my dear," replied my guardian. "The more he suffers, the more averse he will be to me, having made me the principal representative of the great occasion of his suffering."
I could not help adding, "So unreasonably!"
"Ah, Dame Trot, Dame Trot," returned my guardian, "what shall we find reasonable in Jarndyce and Jarndyce! Unreason and injustice at the top, unreason and injustice at the heart and at the bottom, unreason and injustice from beginning to end — if it ever has an end — how should poor Rick, always hovering near it, pluck reason out of it? He no more gathers grapes from thorns or figs from thistles than older men did in old times."
His gentleness and consideration for Richard whenever we spoke of him touched me so that I was always silent on this subject very soon.
"I suppose the Lord Chancellor, and the Vice Chancellors, and the whole Chancery battery of great guns would be infinitely astonished by such unreason and injustice in one of their suitors," pursued my guardian. "When those learned gentlemen begin to raise moss-roses from the powder they sow in their wigs, I shall begin to be astonished too!"
He checked himself in glancing towards the window to look where the wind was and leaned on the back of my chair instead.
"Well, well, little woman! To go on, my dear. This rock we must leave to time, chance, and hopeful circumstance. We must not shipwreck Ada upon it. She cannot afford, and he cannot afford, the remotest chance of another separation from a friend. Therefore I have particularly begged of Woodcourt, and I now particularly beg of you, my dear, not to move this subject with Rick. Let it rest. Next week, next month, next year, sooner or later, he will see me with clearer eyes. I can wait."
But I had already discussed it with him, I confessed; and so, I thought, had Mr. Woodcourt.
"So he tells me," returned my guardian. "Very good. He has made his protest, and Dame Durden has made hers, and there is nothing more to be said about it. Now I come to Mrs. Woodcourt. How do you like her, my dear?"
In answer to this question, which was oddly abrupt, I said I liked her very much and thought she was more agreeable than she used to be.
"I think so too," said my guardian. "Less pedigree? Not so much of Morgan ap — what's his name?"
That was what I meant, I acknowledged, though he was a very harmless person, even when we had had more of him.
"Still, upon the whole, he is as well in his native mountains," said my guardian. "I agree with you. Then, little woman, can I do better for a time than retain Mrs. Woodcourt here?"
No. And yet —
My guardian looked at me, waiting for what I had to say.
I had nothing to say. At least I had nothing in my mind that I could say. I had an undefined impression that it might have been better if we had had some other inmate, but I could hardly have explained why even to myself. Or, if to myself, certainly not to anybody else.
"You see," said my guardian, "our neighbourhood is in Woodcourt's way, and he can come here to see her as often as he likes, which is agreeable to them both; and she is familiar to us and fond of you."
Yes. That was undeniable. I had nothing to say against it. I could not have suggested a better arrangement, but I was not quite easy in my mind. Esther, Esther, why not? Esther, think!
"It is a very good plan indeed, dear guardian, and we could not do better."
"Sure, little woman?"
Quite sure. I had had a moment's time to think, since I had urged that duty on myself, and I was quite sure.
"Good," said my guardian. "It shall be done. Carried unanimously."
"Carried unanimously," I repeated, going on with my work.