Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 8

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Ada and I were very uncomfortable.  We both felt intrusive and out of place, and we both thought that Mrs. Pardiggle would have got on infinitely better if she had not had such a mechanical way of taking possession of people.  The children sulked and stared; the family took no notice of us whatever, except when the young man made the dog bark, which he usually did when Mrs. Pardiggle was most emphatic.  We both felt painfully sensible that between us and these people there was an iron barrier which could not be removed by our new friend.  By whom or how it could be removed, we did not know, but we knew that.  Even what she read and said seemed to us to be ill-chosen for such auditors, if it had been imparted ever so modestly and with ever so much tact.  As to the little book to which the man on the floor had referred, we acquired a knowledge of it afterwards, and Mr. Jarndyce said he doubted if Robinson Crusoe could have read it, though he had had no other on his desolate island.

We were much relieved, under these circumstances, when Mrs. Pardiggle left off.

The man on the floor, then turning his head round again, said morosely, "Well!  You've done, have you?"

"For to-day, I have, my friend.  But I am never fatigued.  I shall come to you again in your regular order," returned Mrs. Pardiggle with demonstrative cheerfulness.

"So long as you goes now," said he, folding his arms and shutting his eyes with an oath, "you may do wot you like!"

Mrs. Pardiggle accordingly rose and made a little vortex in the confined room from which the pipe itself very narrowly escaped.  Taking one of her young family in each hand, and telling the others to follow closely, and expressing her hope that the brickmaker and all his house would be improved when she saw them next, she then proceeded to another cottage.  I hope it is not unkind in me to say that she certainly did make, in this as in everything else, a show that was not conciliatory of doing charity by wholesale and of dealing in it to a large extent.

She supposed that we were following her, but as soon as the space was left clear, we approached the woman sitting by the fire to ask if the baby were ill.

She only looked at it as it lay on her lap.  We had observed before that when she looked at it she covered her discoloured eye with her hand, as though she wished to separate any association with noise and violence and ill treatment from the poor little child.

Ada, whose gentle heart was moved by its appearance, bent down to touch its little face.  As she did so, I saw what happened and drew her back.  The child died.

"Oh, Esther!" cried Ada, sinking on her knees beside it.  "Look here!  Oh, Esther, my love, the little thing!  The suffering, quiet, pretty little thing!  I am so sorry for it.  I am so sorry for the mother.  I never saw a sight so pitiful as this before!  Oh, baby, baby!"

Such compassion, such gentleness, as that with which she bent down weeping and put her hand upon the mother's might have softened any mother's heart that ever beat.  The woman at first gazed at her in astonishment and then burst into tears.

Presently I took the light burden from her lap, did what I could to make the baby's rest the prettier and gentler, laid it on a shelf, and covered it with my own handkerchief.  We tried to comfort the mother, and we whispered to her what Our Saviour said of children.  She answered nothing, but sat weeping—weeping very much.

When I turned, I found that the young man had taken out the dog and was standing at the door looking in upon us with dry eyes, but quiet.  The girl was quiet too and sat in a corner looking on the ground.  The man had risen.  He still smoked his pipe with an air of defiance, but he was silent.

An ugly woman, very poorly clothed, hurried in while I was glancing at them, and coming straight up to the mother, said, "Jenny!  Jenny!"  The mother rose on being so addressed and fell upon the woman's neck.