Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 65

[+] | [-] | reset

"My dear love," said Allan, "leave to me, for a little while, the charge you gave me.  Go home with this intelligence and come to Ada's by and by!"

I would not let him take me to a coach, but entreated him to go to Richard without a moment's delay and leave me to do as he wished.  Hurrying home, I found my guardian and told him gradually with what news I had returned.  "Little woman," said he, quite unmoved for himself, "to have done with the suit on any terms is a greater blessing than I had looked for.  But my poor young cousins!"

We talked about them all the morning and discussed what it was possible to do.  In the afternoon my guardian walked with me to Symond's Inn and left me at the door.  I went upstairs.  When my darling heard my footsteps, she came out into the small passage and threw her arms round my neck, but she composed herself directly and said that Richard had asked for me several times.  Allan had found him sitting in the corner of the court, she told me, like a stone figure.  On being roused, he had broken away and made as if he would have spoken in a fierce voice to the judge.  He was stopped by his mouth being full of blood, and Allan had brought him home.

He was lying on a sofa with his eyes closed when I went in.  There were restoratives on the table; the room was made as airy as possible, and was darkened, and was very orderly and quiet.  Allan stood behind him watching him gravely.  His face appeared to me to be quite destitute of colour, and now that I saw him without his seeing me, I fully saw, for the first time, how worn away he was.  But he looked handsomer than I had seen him look for many a day.

I sat down by his side in silence.  Opening his eyes by and by, he said in a weak voice, but with his old smile, "Dame Durden, kiss me, my dear!"

It was a great comfort and surprise to me to find him in his low state cheerful and looking forward.  He was happier, he said, in our intended marriage than he could find words to tell me.  My husband had been a guardian angel to him and Ada, and he blessed us both and wished us all the joy that life could yield us.  I almost felt as if my own heart would have broken when I saw him take my husband's hand and hold it to his breast.

We spoke of the future as much as possible, and he said several times that he must be present at our marriage if he could stand upon his feet.  Ada would contrive to take him, somehow, he said.  "Yes, surely, dearest Richard!"  But as my darling answered him thus hopefully, so serene and beautiful, with the help that was to come to her so near—I knew—I knew!

It was not good for him to talk too much, and when he was silent, we were silent too.  Sitting beside him, I made a pretence of working for my dear, as he had always been used to joke about my being busy.  Ada leaned upon his pillow, holding his head upon her arm.  He dozed often, and whenever he awoke without seeing him, said first of all, "Where is Woodcourt?"

Evening had come on when I lifted up my eyes and saw my guardian standing in the little hall.  "Who is that, Dame Durden?" Richard asked me.  The door was behind him, but he had observed in my face that some one was there.

I looked to Allan for advice, and as he nodded "Yes," bent over Richard and told him.  My guardian saw what passed, came softly by me in a moment, and laid his hand on Richard's.  "Oh, sir," said Richard, "you are a good man, you are a good man!" and burst into tears for the first time.

My guardian, the picture of a good man, sat down in my place, keeping his hand on Richard's.

"My dear Rick," said he, "the clouds have cleared away, and it is bright now.  We can see now.  We were all bewildered, Rick, more or less.  What matters!  And how are you, my dear boy?"

"I am very weak, sir, but I hope I shall be stronger.  I have to begin the world."

"Aye, truly; well said!" cried my guardian.

"I will not begin it in the old way now," said Richard with a sad smile.  "I have learned a lesson now, sir.  It was a hard one, but you shall be assured, indeed, that I have learned it."