I had not the courage to see any one that night. I had not even the courage to see myself, for I was afraid that my tears might a little reproach me. I went up to my room in the dark, and prayed in the dark, and lay down in the dark to sleep. I had no need of any light to read my guardian's letter by, for I knew it by heart. I took it from the place where I kept it, and repeated its contents by its own clear light of integrity and love, and went to sleep with it on my pillow.
I was up very early in the morning and called Charley to come for a walk. We bought flowers for the breakfast-table, and came back and arranged them, and were as busy as possible. We were so early that I had a good time still for Charley's lesson before breakfast; Charley (who was not in the least improved in the old defective article of grammar) came through it with great applause; and we were altogether very notable. When my guardian appeared he said, "Why, little woman, you look fresher than your flowers!" And Mrs. Woodcourt repeated and translated a passage from the Mewlinnwillinwodd expressive of my being like a mountain with the sun upon it.
This was all so pleasant that I hope it made me still more like the mountain than I had been before. After breakfast I waited my opportunity and peeped about a little until I saw my guardian in his own room — the room of last night — by himself. Then I made an excuse to go in with my housekeeping keys, shutting the door after me.
"Well, Dame Durden?" said my guardian; the post had brought him several letters, and he was writing. "You want money?"
"No, indeed, I have plenty in hand."
"There never was such a Dame Durden," said my guardian, "for making money last."
He had laid down his pen and leaned back in his chair looking at me. I have often spoken of his bright face, but I thought I had never seen it look so bright and good. There was a high happiness upon it which made me think, "He has been doing some great kindness this morning."
"There never was," said my guardian, musing as he smiled upon me, "such a Dame Durden for making money last."
He had never yet altered his old manner. I loved it and him so much that when I now went up to him and took my usual chair, which was always put at his side — for sometimes I read to him, and sometimes I talked to him, and sometimes I silently worked by him — I hardly liked to disturb it by laying my hand on his breast. But I found I did not disturb it at all.
"Dear guardian," said I, "I want to speak to you. Have I been remiss in anything?"
"Remiss in anything, my dear!"
"Have I not been what I have meant to be since — I brought the answer to your letter, guardian?"
"You have been everything I could desire, my love."
"I am very glad indeed to hear that," I returned. "You know, you said to me, was this the mistress of Bleak House. And I said, yes."
"Yes," said my guardian, nodding his head. He had put his arm about me as if there were something to protect me from and looked in my face, smiling.
"Since then," said I, "we have never spoken on the subject except once."
"And then I said Bleak House was thinning fast; and so it was, my dear."
"And I said," I timidly reminded him, "but its mistress remained."
He still held me in the same protecting manner and with the same bright goodness in his face.
"Dear guardian," said I, "I know how you have felt all that has happened, and how considerate you have been. As so much time has passed, and as you spoke only this morning of my being so well again, perhaps you expect me to renew the subject. Perhaps I ought to do so. I will be the mistress of Bleak House when you please."
"See," he returned gaily, "what a sympathy there must be between us! I have had nothing else, poor Rick excepted — it's a large exception — in my mind. When you came in, I was full of it. When shall we give Bleak House its mistress, little woman?"
"When you please."
"Next month, dear guardian."
"The day on which I take the happiest and best step of my life — the day on which I shall be a man more exulting and more enviable than any other man in the world — the day on which I give Bleak House its little mistress — shall be next month then," said my guardian.
I put my arms round his neck and kissed him just as I had done on the day when I brought my answer.
A servant came to the door to announce Mr. Bucket, which was quite unnecessary, for Mr. Bucket was already looking in over the servant's shoulder. "Mr. Jarndyce and Miss Summerson," said he, rather out of breath, "with all apologies for intruding, WILL you allow me to order up a person that's on the stairs and that objects to being left there in case of becoming the subject of observations in his absence? Thank you. Be so good as chair that there member in this direction, will you?" said Mr. Bucket, beckoning over the banisters.
This singular request produced an old man in a black skull-cap, unable to walk, who was carried up by a couple of bearers and deposited in the room near the door. Mr. Bucket immediately got rid of the bearers, mysteriously shut the door, and bolted it.
"Now you see, Mr. Jarndyce," he then began, putting down his hat and opening his subject with a flourish of his well-remembered finger, "you know me, and Miss Summerson knows me. This gentleman likewise knows me, and his name is Smallweed. The discounting line is his line principally, and he's what you may call a dealer in bills. That's about what YOU are, you know, ain't you?" said Mr. Bucket, stopping a little to address the gentleman in question, who was exceedingly suspicious of him.
He seemed about to dispute this designation of himself when he was seized with a violent fit of coughing.
"Now, moral, you know!" said Mr. Bucket, improving the accident. "Don't you contradict when there ain't no occasion, and you won't be took in that way. Now, Mr. Jarndyce, I address myself to you. I've been negotiating with this gentleman on behalf of Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, and one way and another I've been in and out and about his premises a deal. His premises are the premises formerly occupied by Krook, marine store dealer — a relation of this gentleman's that you saw in his lifetime if I don't mistake?"
My guardian replied, "Yes."
"Well! You are to understand," said Mr. Bucket, "that this gentleman he come into Krook's property, and a good deal of magpie property there was. Vast lots of waste-paper among the rest. Lord bless you, of no use to nobody!"