Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 24

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An Appeal Case

As soon as Richard and I had held the conversation of which I have given an account, Richard communicated the state of his mind to Mr. Jarndyce.  I doubt if my guardian were altogether taken by surprise when he received the representation, though it caused him much uneasiness and disappointment.  He and Richard were often closeted together, late at night and early in the morning, and passed whole days in London, and had innumerable appointments with Mr. Kenge, and laboured through a quantity of disagreeable business.  While they were thus employed, my guardian, though he underwent considerable inconvenience from the state of the wind and rubbed his head so constantly that not a single hair upon it ever rested in its right place, was as genial with Ada and me as at any other time, but maintained a steady reserve on these matters.  And as our utmost endeavours could only elicit from Richard himself sweeping assurances that everything was going on capitally and that it really was all right at last, our anxiety was not much relieved by him.

We learnt, however, as the time went on, that a new application was made to the Lord Chancellor on Richard's behalf as an infant and a ward, and I don't know what, and that there was a quantity of talking, and that the Lord Chancellor described him in open court as a vexatious and capricious infant, and that the matter was adjourned and readjourned, and referred, and reported on, and petitioned about until Richard began to doubt (as he told us) whether, if he entered the army at all, it would not be as a veteran of seventy or eighty years of age.  At last an appointment was made for him to see the Lord Chancellor again in his private room, and there the Lord Chancellor very seriously reproved him for trifling with time and not knowing his mind—"a pretty good joke, I think," said Richard, "from that quarter!"—and at last it was settled that his application should be granted.  His name was entered at the Horse Guards as an applicant for an ensign's commission; the purchase-money was deposited at an agent's; and Richard, in his usual characteristic way, plunged into a violent course of military study and got up at five o'clock every morning to practise the broadsword exercise.

Thus, vacation succeeded term, and term succeeded vacation.  We sometimes heard of Jarndyce and Jarndyce as being in the paper or out of the paper, or as being to be mentioned, or as being to be spoken to; and it came on, and it went off.  Richard, who was now in a professor's house in London, was able to be with us less frequently than before; my guardian still maintained the same reserve; and so time passed until the commission was obtained and Richard received directions with it to join a regiment in Ireland.

He arrived post-haste with the intelligence one evening, and had a long conference with my guardian.  Upwards of an hour elapsed before my guardian put his head into the room where Ada and I were sitting and said, "Come in, my dears!"  We went in and found Richard, whom we had last seen in high spirits, leaning on the chimney-piece looking mortified and angry.

"Rick and I, Ada," said Mr. Jarndyce, "are not quite of one mind.  Come, come, Rick, put a brighter face upon it!"

"You are very hard with me, sir," said Richard.  "The harder because you have been so considerate to me in all other respects and have done me kindnesses that I can never acknowledge.  I never could have been set right without you, sir."

"Well, well!" said Mr. Jarndyce.  "I want to set you more right yet.  I want to set you more right with yourself."

"I hope you will excuse my saying, sir," returned Richard in a fiery way, but yet respectfully, "that I think I am the best judge about myself."

"I hope you will excuse my saying, my dear Rick," observed Mr. Jarndyce with the sweetest cheerfulness and good humour, "that it's quite natural in you to think so, but I don't think so.  I must do my duty, Rick, or you could never care for me in cool blood; and I hope you will always care for me, cool and hot."