Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 35

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I did not think very much about this lady then, for I had an impression that it might be Caddy.  Besides, my attention was diverted by my visitor, who was cold after her ride and looked hungry and who, our dinner being brought in, required some little assistance in arraying herself with great satisfaction in a pitiable old scarf and a much-worn and often-mended pair of gloves, which she had brought down in a paper parcel.  I had to preside, too, over the entertainment, consisting of a dish of fish, a roast fowl, a sweetbread, vegetables, pudding, and Madeira; and it was so pleasant to see how she enjoyed it, and with what state and ceremony she did honour to it, that I was soon thinking of nothing else.

When we had finished and had our little dessert before us, embellished by the hands of my dear, who would yield the superintendence of everything prepared for me to no one, Miss Flite was so very chatty and happy that I thought I would lead her to her own history, as she was always pleased to talk about herself.  I began by saying "You have attended on the Lord Chancellor many years, Miss Flite?"

"Oh, many, many, many years, my dear.  But I expect a judgment.  Shortly."

There was an anxiety even in her hopefulness that made me doubtful if I had done right in approaching the subject.  I thought I would say no more about it.

"My father expected a judgment," said Miss Flite.  "My brother.  My sister.  They all expected a judgment.  The same that I expect."

"They are all—"

"Ye-es.  Dead of course, my dear," said she.

As I saw she would go on, I thought it best to try to be serviceable to her by meeting the theme rather than avoiding it.

"Would it not be wiser," said I, "to expect this judgment no more?"

"Why, my dear," she answered promptly, "of course it would!"

"And to attend the court no more?"

"Equally of course," said she.  "Very wearing to be always in expectation of what never comes, my dear Fitz Jarndyce!  Wearing, I assure you, to the bone!"

She slightly showed me her arm, and it was fearfully thin indeed.

"But, my dear," she went on in her mysterious way, "there's a dreadful attraction in the place.  Hush!  Don't mention it to our diminutive friend when she comes in.  Or it may frighten her.  With good reason.  There's a cruel attraction in the place.  You CAN'T leave it.  And you MUST expect."

I tried to assure her that this was not so.  She heard me patiently and smilingly, but was ready with her own answer.

"Aye, aye, aye!  You think so because I am a little rambling.  Ve-ry absurd, to be a little rambling, is it not?  Ve-ry confusing, too.  To the head.  I find it so.  But, my dear, I have been there many years, and I have noticed.  It's the mace and seal upon the table."

What could they do, did she think?  I mildly asked her.

"Draw," returned Miss Flite.  "Draw people on, my dear.  Draw peace out of them.  Sense out of them.  Good looks out of them.  Good qualities out of them.  I have felt them even drawing my rest away in the night.  Cold and glittering devils!"

She tapped me several times upon the arm and nodded good-humouredly as if she were anxious I should understand that I had no cause to fear her, though she spoke so gloomily, and confided these awful secrets to me.