Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 50

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Esther's Narrative

It happened that when I came home from Deal I found a note from Caddy Jellyby (as we always continued to call her), informing me that her health, which had been for some time very delicate, was worse and that she would be more glad than she could tell me if I would go to see her.  It was a note of a few lines, written from the couch on which she lay and enclosed to me in another from her husband, in which he seconded her entreaty with much solicitude.  Caddy was now the mother, and I the godmother, of such a poor little baby—such a tiny old-faced mite, with a countenance that seemed to be scarcely anything but cap-border, and a little lean, long-fingered hand, always clenched under its chin.  It would lie in this attitude all day, with its bright specks of eyes open, wondering (as I used to imagine) how it came to be so small and weak.  Whenever it was moved it cried, but at all other times it was so patient that the sole desire of its life appeared to be to lie quiet and think.  It had curious little dark veins in its face and curious little dark marks under its eyes like faint remembrances of poor Caddy's inky days, and altogether, to those who were not used to it, it was quite a piteous little sight.

But it was enough for Caddy that SHE was used to it.  The projects with which she beguiled her illness, for little Esther's education, and little Esther's marriage, and even for her own old age as the grandmother of little Esther's little Esthers, was so prettily expressive of devotion to this pride of her life that I should be tempted to recall some of them but for the timely remembrance that I am getting on irregularly as it is.

To return to the letter.  Caddy had a superstition about me which had been strengthening in her mind ever since that night long ago when she had lain asleep with her head in my lap.  She almost—I think I must say quite—believed that I did her good whenever I was near her.  Now although this was such a fancy of the affectionate girl's that I am almost ashamed to mention it, still it might have all the force of a fact when she was really ill.  Therefore I set off to Caddy, with my guardian's consent, post-haste; and she and Prince made so much of me that there never was anything like it.

Next day I went again to sit with her, and next day I went again.  It was a very easy journey, for I had only to rise a little earlier in the morning, and keep my accounts, and attend to housekeeping matters before leaving home.

But when I had made these three visits, my guardian said to me, on my return at night, "Now, little woman, little woman, this will never do.  Constant dropping will wear away a stone, and constant coaching will wear out a Dame Durden.  We will go to London for a while and take possession of our old lodgings."

"Not for me, dear guardian," said I, "for I never feel tired," which was strictly true.  I was only too happy to be in such request.

"For me then," returned my guardian, "or for Ada, or for both of us.  It is somebody's birthday to-morrow, I think."

"Truly I think it is," said I, kissing my darling, who would be twenty-one to-morrow.

"Well," observed my guardian, half pleasantly, half seriously, "that's a great occasion and will give my fair cousin some necessary business to transact in assertion of her independence, and will make London a more convenient place for all of us.  So to London we will go.  That being settled, there is another thing—how have you left Caddy?"

"Very unwell, guardian.  I fear it will be some time before she regains her health and strength."

"What do you call some time, now?" asked my guardian thoughtfully.

"Some weeks, I am afraid."