Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 48

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Closing in

The place in Lincolnshire has shut its many eyes again, and the house in town is awake.  In Lincolnshire the Dedlocks of the past doze in their picture-frames, and the low wind murmurs through the long drawing-room as if they were breathing pretty regularly.  In town the Dedlocks of the present rattle in their fire-eyed carriages through the darkness of the night, and the Dedlock Mercuries, with ashes (or hair-powder) on their heads, symptomatic of their great humility, loll away the drowsy mornings in the little windows of the hall.  The fashionable world—tremendous orb, nearly five miles round—is in full swing, and the solar system works respectfully at its appointed distances.

Where the throng is thickest, where the lights are brightest, where all the senses are ministered to with the greatest delicacy and refinement, Lady Dedlock is.  From the shining heights she has scaled and taken, she is never absent.  Though the belief she of old reposed in herself as one able to reserve whatsoever she would under her mantle of pride is beaten down, though she has no assurance that what she is to those around her she will remain another day, it is not in her nature when envious eyes are looking on to yield or to droop.  They say of her that she has lately grown more handsome and more haughty.  The debilitated cousin says of her that she's beauty nough—tsetup shopofwomen—but rather larming kind—remindingmanfact—inconvenient woman—who WILL getoutofbedandbawthstahlishment—Shakespeare.

Mr. Tulkinghorn says nothing, looks nothing.  Now, as heretofore, he is to be found in doorways of rooms, with his limp white cravat loosely twisted into its old-fashioned tie, receiving patronage from the peerage and making no sign.  Of all men he is still the last who might be supposed to have any influence upon my Lady.  Of all women she is still the last who might be supposed to have any dread of him.

One thing has been much on her mind since their late interview in his turret-room at Chesney Wold.  She is now decided, and prepared to throw it off.

It is morning in the great world, afternoon according to the little sun.  The Mercuries, exhausted by looking out of window, are reposing in the hall and hang their heavy heads, the gorgeous creatures, like overblown sunflowers.  Like them, too, they seem to run to a deal of seed in their tags and trimmings.  Sir Leicester, in the library, has fallen asleep for the good of the country over the report of a Parliamentary committee.  My Lady sits in the room in which she gave audience to the young man of the name of Guppy.  Rosa is with her and has been writing for her and reading to her.  Rosa is now at work upon embroidery or some such pretty thing, and as she bends her head over it, my Lady watches her in silence.  Not for the first time to-day.


The pretty village face looks brightly up.  Then, seeing how serious my Lady is, looks puzzled and surprised.

"See to the door.  Is it shut?"

Yes.  She goes to it and returns, and looks yet more surprised.

"I am about to place confidence in you, child, for I know I may trust your attachment, if not your judgment.  In what I am going to do, I will not disguise myself to you at least.  But I confide in you.  Say nothing to any one of what passes between us."

The timid little beauty promises in all earnestness to be trustworthy.

"Do you know," Lady Dedlock asks her, signing to her to bring her chair nearer, "do you know, Rosa, that I am different to you from what I am to any one?"