Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 35

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"Let me see," said she.  "I'll tell you my own case.  Before they ever drew me—before I had ever seen them—what was it I used to do?  Tambourine playing?  No.  Tambour work.  I and my sister worked at tambour work.  Our father and our brother had a builder's business.  We all lived together.  Ve-ry respectably, my dear!  First, our father was drawn—slowly.  Home was drawn with him.  In a few years he was a fierce, sour, angry bankrupt without a kind word or a kind look for any one.  He had been so different, Fitz Jarndyce.  He was drawn to a debtors' prison.  There he died.  Then our brother was drawn—swiftly—to drunkenness.  And rags.  And death.  Then my sister was drawn.  Hush!  Never ask to what!  Then I was ill and in misery, and heard, as I had often heard before, that this was all the work of Chancery.  When I got better, I went to look at the monster.  And then I found out how it was, and I was drawn to stay there."

Having got over her own short narrative, in the delivery of which she had spoken in a low, strained voice, as if the shock were fresh upon her, she gradually resumed her usual air of amiable importance.

"You don't quite credit me, my dear!  Well, well!  You will, some day.  I am a little rambling.  But I have noticed.  I have seen many new faces come, unsuspicious, within the influence of the mace and seal in these many years.  As my father's came there.  As my brother's.  As my sister's.  As my own.  I hear Conversation Kenge and the rest of them say to the new faces, 'Here's little Miss Flite.  Oh, you are new here; and you must come and be presented to little Miss Flite!'  Ve-ry good.  Proud I am sure to have the honour!  And we all laugh.  But, Fitz Jarndyce, I know what will happen.  I know, far better than they do, when the attraction has begun.  I know the signs, my dear.  I saw them begin in Gridley.  And I saw them end.  Fitz Jarndyce, my love," speaking low again, "I saw them beginning in our friend the ward in Jarndyce.  Let some one hold him back.  Or he'll be drawn to ruin."

She looked at me in silence for some moments, with her face gradually softening into a smile.  Seeming to fear that she had been too gloomy, and seeming also to lose the connexion in her mind, she said politely as she sipped her glass of wine, "Yes, my dear, as I was saying, I expect a judgment shortly.  Then I shall release my birds, you know, and confer estates."

I was much impressed by her allusion to Richard and by the sad meaning, so sadly illustrated in her poor pinched form, that made its way through all her incoherence.  But happily for her, she was quite complacent again now and beamed with nods and smiles.

"But, my dear," she said, gaily, reaching another hand to put it upon mine.  "You have not congratulated me on my physician.  Positively not once, yet!"

I was obliged to confess that I did not quite know what she meant.

"My physician, Mr. Woodcourt, my dear, who was so exceedingly attentive to me.  Though his services were rendered quite gratuitously.  Until the Day of Judgment.  I mean THE judgment that will dissolve the spell upon me of the mace and seal."

"Mr. Woodcourt is so far away, now," said I, "that I thought the time for such congratulation was past, Miss Flite."

"But, my child," she returned, "is it possible that you don't know what has happened?"

"No," said I.

"Not what everybody has been talking of, my beloved Fitz Jarndyce!"

"No," said I.  "You forget how long I have been here."

"True!  My dear, for the moment—true.  I blame myself.  But my memory has been drawn out of me, with everything else, by what I mentioned.  Ve-ry strong influence, is it not?  Well, my dear, there has been a terrible shipwreck over in those East Indian seas."