Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 5

[+] | [-] | reset
 

"Oh!  Don't talk of duty as a child, Miss Summerson; where's Ma's duty as a parent?  All made over to the public and Africa, I suppose!  Then let the public and Africa show duty as a child; it's much more their affair than mine.  You are shocked, I dare say!  Very well, so am I shocked too; so we are both shocked, and there's an end of it!"

She walked me on faster yet.

"But for all that, I say again, he may come, and come, and come, and I won't have anything to say to him.  I can't bear him.  If there's any stuff in the world that I hate and detest, it's the stuff he and Ma talk.  I wonder the very paving-stones opposite our house can have the patience to stay there and be a witness of such inconsistencies and contradictions as all that sounding nonsense, and Ma's management!"

I could not but understand her to refer to Mr. Quale, the young gentleman who had appeared after dinner yesterday.  I was saved the disagreeable necessity of pursuing the subject by Richard and Ada coming up at a round pace, laughing and asking us if we meant to run a race.  Thus interrupted, Miss Jellyby became silent and walked moodily on at my side while I admired the long successions and varieties of streets, the quantity of people already going to and fro, the number of vehicles passing and repassing, the busy preparations in the setting forth of shop windows and the sweeping out of shops, and the extraordinary creatures in rags secretly groping among the swept-out rubbish for pins and other refuse.

"So, cousin," said the cheerful voice of Richard to Ada behind me.  "We are never to get out of Chancery!  We have come by another way to our place of meeting yesterday, and—by the Great Seal, here's the old lady again!"

Truly, there she was, immediately in front of us, curtsying, and smiling, and saying with her yesterday's air of patronage, "The wards in Jarndyce!  Ve-ry happy, I am sure!"

"You are out early, ma'am," said I as she curtsied to me.

"Ye-es!  I usually walk here early.  Before the court sits.  It's retired.  I collect my thoughts here for the business of the day," said the old lady mincingly.  "The business of the day requires a great deal of thought.  Chancery justice is so ve-ry difficult to follow."

"Who's this, Miss Summerson?" whispered Miss Jellyby, drawing my arm tighter through her own.

The little old lady's hearing was remarkably quick.  She answered for herself directly.

"A suitor, my child.  At your service.  I have the honour to attend court regularly.  With my documents.  Have I the pleasure of addressing another of the youthful parties in Jarndyce?" said the old lady, recovering herself, with her head on one side, from a very low curtsy.

Richard, anxious to atone for his thoughtlessness of yesterday, good-naturedly explained that Miss Jellyby was not connected with the suit.

"Ha!" said the old lady.  "She does not expect a judgment?  She will still grow old.  But not so old.  Oh, dear, no!  This is the garden of Lincoln's Inn.  I call it my garden.  It is quite a bower in the summer-time.  Where the birds sing melodiously.  I pass the greater part of the long vacation here.  In contemplation.  You find the long vacation exceedingly long, don't you?"

We said yes, as she seemed to expect us to say so.

"When the leaves are falling from the trees and there are no more flowers in bloom to make up into nosegays for the Lord Chancellor's court," said the old lady, "the vacation is fulfilled and the sixth seal, mentioned in the Revelations, again prevails.  Pray come and see my lodging.  It will be a good omen for me.  Youth, and hope, and beauty are very seldom there.  It is a long, long time since I had a visit from either."