So after he had been a little while with Ada, I went in and found my darling (as I knew she would be) prepared to consider him thoroughly right in whatever he said.
"And how do you get on, Richard?" said I. I always sat down on the other side of him. He made quite a sister of me.
"Oh! Well enough!" said Richard.
"He can't say better than that, Esther, can he?" cried my pet triumphantly.
I tried to look at my pet in the wisest manner, but of course I couldn't.
"Well enough?" I repeated.
"Yes," said Richard, "well enough. It's rather jog-trotty and humdrum. But it'll do as well as anything else!"
"Oh! My dear Richard!" I remonstrated.
"What's the matter?" said Richard.
"Do as well as anything else!"
"I don't think there's any harm in that, Dame Durden," said Ada, looking so confidingly at me across him; "because if it will do as well as anything else, it will do very well, I hope."
"Oh, yes, I hope so," returned Richard, carelessly tossing his hair from his forehead. "After all, it may be only a kind of probation till our suit is — I forgot though. I am not to mention the suit. Forbidden ground! Oh, yes, it's all right enough. Let us talk about something else."
Ada would have done so willingly, and with a full persuasion that we had brought the question to a most satisfactory state. But I thought it would be useless to stop there, so I began again.
"No, but Richard," said I, "and my dear Ada! Consider how important it is to you both, and what a point of honour it is towards your cousin, that you, Richard, should be quite in earnest without any reservation. I think we had better talk about this, really, Ada. It will be too late very soon."
"Oh, yes! We must talk about it!" said Ada. "But I think Richard is right."
What was the use of my trying to look wise when she was so pretty, and so engaging, and so fond of him!
"Mr. and Mrs. Badger were here yesterday, Richard," said I, "and they seemed disposed to think that you had no great liking for the profession."
"Did they though?" said Richard. "Oh! Well, that rather alters the case, because I had no idea that they thought so, and I should not have liked to disappoint or inconvenience them. The fact is, I don't care much about it. But, oh, it don't matter! It'll do as well as anything else!"
"You hear him, Ada!" said I.
"The fact is," Richard proceeded, half thoughtfully and half jocosely, "it is not quite in my way. I don't take to it. And I get too much of Mrs. Bayham Badger's first and second."
"I am sure THAT'S very natural!" cried Ada, quite delighted. "The very thing we both said yesterday, Esther!"
"Then," pursued Richard, "it's monotonous, and to-day is too like yesterday, and to-morrow is too like to-day."
"But I am afraid," said I, "this is an objection to all kinds of application — to life itself, except under some very uncommon circumstances."
"Do you think so?" returned Richard, still considering. "Perhaps! Ha! Why, then, you know," he added, suddenly becoming gay again, "we travel outside a circle to what I said just now. It'll do as well as anything else. Oh, it's all right enough! Let us talk about something else."
But even Ada, with her loving face — and if it had seemed innocent and trusting when I first saw it in that memorable November fog, how much more did it seem now when I knew her innocent and trusting heart — even Ada shook her head at this and looked serious. So I thought it a good opportunity to hint to Richard that if he were sometimes a little careless of himself, I was very sure he never meant to be careless of Ada, and that it was a part of his affectionate consideration for her not to slight the importance of a step that might influence both their lives. This made him almost grave.
"My dear Mother Hubbard," he said, "that's the very thing! I have thought of that several times and have been quite angry with myself for meaning to be so much in earnest and — somehow — not exactly being so. I don't know how it is; I seem to want something or other to stand by. Even you have no idea how fond I am of Ada (my darling cousin, I love you, so much!), but I don't settle down to constancy in other things. It's such uphill work, and it takes such a time!" said Richard with an air of vexation.
"That may be," I suggested, "because you don't like what you have chosen."
"Poor fellow!" said Ada. "I am sure I don't wonder at it!"
No. It was not of the least use my trying to look wise. I tried again, but how could I do it, or how could it have any effect if I could, while Ada rested her clasped hands upon his shoulder and while he looked at her tender blue eyes, and while they looked at him!
"You see, my precious girl," said Richard, passing her golden curls through and through his hand, "I was a little hasty perhaps; or I misunderstood my own inclinations perhaps. They don't seem to lie in that direction. I couldn't tell till I tried. Now the question is whether it's worth-while to undo all that has been done. It seems like making a great disturbance about nothing particular."
"My dear Richard," said I, "how CAN you say about nothing particular?"
"I don't mean absolutely that," he returned. "I mean that it MAY be nothing particular because I may never want it."
Both Ada and I urged, in reply, not only that it was decidedly worth-while to undo what had been done, but that it must be undone. I then asked Richard whether he had thought of any more congenial pursuit.
"There, my dear Mrs. Shipton," said Richard, "you touch me home. Yes, I have. I have been thinking that the law is the boy for me."
"The law!" repeated Ada as if she were afraid of the name.
"If I went into Kenge's office," said Richard, "and if I were placed under articles to Kenge, I should have my eye on the — hum! — the forbidden ground — and should be able to study it, and master it, and to satisfy myself that it was not neglected and was being properly conducted. I should be able to look after Ada's interests and my own interests (the same thing!); and I should peg away at Blackstone and all those fellows with the most tremendous ardour."
I was not by any means so sure of that, and I saw how his hankering after the vague things yet to come of those long-deferred hopes cast a shade on Ada's face. But I thought it best to encourage him in any project of continuous exertion, and only advised him to be quite sure that his mind was made up now.
"My dear Minerva," said Richard, "I am as steady as you are. I made a mistake; we are all liable to mistakes; I won't do so any more, and I'll become such a lawyer as is not often seen. That is, you know," said Richard, relapsing into doubt, "if it really is worth-while, after all, to make such a disturbance about nothing particular!"