Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 43

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"What made him such a child?" inquired my guardian, rubbing his head, a little at a loss.

"Yes, cousin John."

"Why," he slowly replied, roughening his head more and more, "he is all sentiment, and—and susceptibility, and—and sensibility, and—and imagination.  And these qualities are not regulated in him, somehow.  I suppose the people who admired him for them in his youth attached too much importance to them and too little to any training that would have balanced and adjusted them, and so he became what he is.  Hey?" said my guardian, stopping short and looking at us hopefully.  "What do you think, you two?"

Ada, glancing at me, said she thought it was a pity he should be an expense to Richard.

"So it is, so it is," returned my guardian hurriedly.  "That must not be.  We must arrange that.  I must prevent it.  That will never do."

And I said I thought it was to be regretted that he had ever introduced Richard to Mr. Vholes for a present of five pounds.

"Did he?" said my guardian with a passing shade of vexation on his face.  "But there you have the man.  There you have the man!  There is nothing mercenary in that with him.  He has no idea of the value of money.  He introduces Rick, and then he is good friends with Mr. Vholes and borrows five pounds of him.  He means nothing by it and thinks nothing of it.  He told you himself, I'll be bound, my dear?"

"Oh, yes!" said I.

"Exactly!" cried my guardian, quite triumphant.  "There you have the man!  If he had meant any harm by it or was conscious of any harm in it, he wouldn't tell it.  He tells it as he does it in mere simplicity.  But you shall see him in his own home, and then you'll understand him better.  We must pay a visit to Harold Skimpole and caution him on these points.  Lord bless you, my dears, an infant, an infant!"

In pursuance of this plan, we went into London on an early day and presented ourselves at Mr. Skimpole's door.

He lived in a place called the Polygon, in Somers Town, where there were at that time a number of poor Spanish refugees walking about in cloaks, smoking little paper cigars.  Whether he was a better tenant than one might have supposed, in consequence of his friend Somebody always paying his rent at last, or whether his inaptitude for business rendered it particularly difficult to turn him out, I don't know; but he had occupied the same house some years.  It was in a state of dilapidation quite equal to our expectation.  Two or three of the area railings were gone, the water-butt was broken, the knocker was loose, the bell-handle had been pulled off a long time to judge from the rusty state of the wire, and dirty footprints on the steps were the only signs of its being inhabited.

A slatternly full-blown girl who seemed to be bursting out at the rents in her gown and the cracks in her shoes like an over-ripe berry answered our knock by opening the door a very little way and stopping up the gap with her figure.  As she knew Mr. Jarndyce (indeed Ada and I both thought that she evidently associated him with the receipt of her wages), she immediately relented and allowed us to pass in.  The lock of the door being in a disabled condition, she then applied herself to securing it with the chain, which was not in good action either, and said would we go upstairs?

We went upstairs to the first floor, still seeing no other furniture than the dirty footprints.  Mr. Jarndyce without further ceremony entered a room there, and we followed.  It was dingy enough and not at all clean, but furnished with an odd kind of shabby luxury, with a large footstool, a sofa, and plenty of cushions, an easy-chair, and plenty of pillows, a piano, books, drawing materials, music, newspapers, and a few sketches and pictures.  A broken pane of glass in one of the dirty windows was papered and wafered over, but there was a little plate of hothouse nectarines on the table, and there was another of grapes, and another of sponge-cakes, and there was a bottle of light wine.  Mr. Skimpole himself reclined upon the sofa in a dressing-gown, drinking some fragrant coffee from an old china cup—it was then about mid-day—and looking at a collection of wallflowers in the balcony.