Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 28

[+] | [-] | reset
 

"Mr. Rouncewell," says Sir Leicester with his right hand in the breast of his blue coat, the attitude of state in which he is painted in the gallery, "do you draw a parallel between Chesney Wold and a—" Here he resists a disposition to choke, "a factory?"

"I need not reply, Sir Leicester, that the two places are very different; but for the purposes of this case, I think a parallel may be justly drawn between them."

Sir Leicester directs his majestic glance down one side of the long drawing-room and up the other before he can believe that he is awake.

"Are you aware, sir, that this young woman whom my Lady—my Lady—has placed near her person was brought up at the village school outside the gates?"

"Sir Leicester, I am quite aware of it.  A very good school it is, and handsomely supported by this family."

"Then, Mr. Rouncewell," returns Sir Leicester, "the application of what you have said is, to me, incomprehensible."

"Will it be more comprehensible, Sir Leicester, if I say," the ironmaster is reddening a little, "that I do not regard the village school as teaching everything desirable to be known by my son's wife?"

From the village school of Chesney Wold, intact as it is this minute, to the whole framework of society; from the whole framework of society, to the aforesaid framework receiving tremendous cracks in consequence of people (iron-masters, lead-mistresses, and what not) not minding their catechism, and getting out of the station unto which they are called—necessarily and for ever, according to Sir Leicester's rapid logic, the first station in which they happen to find themselves; and from that, to their educating other people out of THEIR stations, and so obliterating the landmarks, and opening the floodgates, and all the rest of it; this is the swift progress of the Dedlock mind.

"My Lady, I beg your pardon.  Permit me, for one moment!"  She has given a faint indication of intending to speak.  "Mr. Rouncewell, our views of duty, and our views of station, and our views of education, and our views of—in short, ALL our views—are so diametrically opposed, that to prolong this discussion must be repellent to your feelings and repellent to my own.  This young woman is honoured with my Lady's notice and favour.  If she wishes to withdraw herself from that notice and favour or if she chooses to place herself under the influence of any one who may in his peculiar opinions—you will allow me to say, in his peculiar opinions, though I readily admit that he is not accountable for them to me—who may, in his peculiar opinions, withdraw her from that notice and favour, she is at any time at liberty to do so.  We are obliged to you for the plainness with which you have spoken.  It will have no effect of itself, one way or other, on the young woman's position here.  Beyond this, we can make no terms; and here we beg—if you will be so good—to leave the subject."

The visitor pauses a moment to give my Lady an opportunity, but she says nothing.  He then rises and replies, "Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock, allow me to thank you for your attention and only to observe that I shall very seriously recommend my son to conquer his present inclinations.  Good night!"

"Mr. Rouncewell," says Sir Leicester with all the nature of a gentleman shining in him, "it is late, and the roads are dark.  I hope your time is not so precious but that you will allow my Lady and myself to offer you the hospitality of Chesney Wold, for to-night at least."

"I hope so," adds my Lady.

"I am much obliged to you, but I have to travel all night in order to reach a distant part of the country punctually at an appointed time in the morning."