Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 64

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Esther's Narrative

Soon after I had that convertion with my guardian, he put a sealed paper in my hand one morning and said, "This is for next month, my dear."  I found in it two hundred pounds.

I now began very quietly to make such preparations as I thought were necessary.  Regulating my purchases by my guardian's taste, which I knew very well of course, I arranged my wardrobe to please him and hoped I should be highly successful.  I did it all so quietly because I was not quite free from my old apprehension that Ada would be rather sorry and because my guardian was so quiet himself.  I had no doubt that under all the circumstances we should be married in the most private and simple manner.  Perhaps I should only have to say to Ada, "Would you like to come and see me married to-morrow, my pet?"  Perhaps our wedding might even be as unpretending as her own, and I might not find it necessary to say anything about it until it was over.  I thought that if I were to choose, I would like this best.

The only exception I made was Mrs. Woodcourt.  I told her that I was going to be married to my guardian and that we had been engaged some time.  She highly approved.  She could never do enough for me and was remarkably softened now in comparison with what she had been when we first knew her.  There was no trouble she would not have taken to have been of use to me, but I need hardly say that I only allowed her to take as little as gratified her kindness without tasking it.

Of course this was not a time to neglect my guardian, and of course it was not a time for neglecting my darling.  So I had plenty of occupation, which I was glad of; and as to Charley, she was absolutely not to be seen for needlework.  To surround herself with great heaps of it—baskets full and tables full—and do a little, and spend a great deal of time in staring with her round eyes at what there was to do, and persuade herself that she was going to do it, were Charley's great dignities and delights.

Meanwhile, I must say, I could not agree with my guardian on the subject of the will, and I had some sanguine hopes of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.  Which of us was right will soon appear, but I certainly did encourage expectations.  In Richard, the discovery gave occasion for a burst of business and agitation that buoyed him up for a little time, but he had lost the elasticity even of hope now and seemed to me to retain only its feverish anxieties.  From something my guardian said one day when we were talking about this, I understood that my marriage would not take place until after the term-time we had been told to look forward to; and I thought the more, for that, how rejoiced I should be if I could be married when Richard and Ada were a little more prosperous.

The term was very near indeed when my guardian was called out of town and went down into Yorkshire on Mr. Woodcourt's business.  He had told me beforehand that his presence there would be necessary.  I had just come in one night from my dear girl's and was sitting in the midst of all my new clothes, looking at them all around me and thinking, when a letter from my guardian was brought to me.  It asked me to join him in the country and mentioned by what stage-coach my place was taken and at what time in the morning I should have to leave town.  It added in a postscript that I would not be many hours from Ada.

I expected few things less than a journey at that time, but I was ready for it in half an hour and set off as appointed early next morning.  I travelled all day, wondering all day what I could be wanted for at such a distance; now I thought it might be for this purpose, and now I thought it might be for that purpose, but I was never, never, never near the truth.

It was night when I came to my journey's end and found my guardian waiting for me.  This was a great relief, for towards evening I had begun to fear (the more so as his letter was a very short one) that he might be ill.  However, there he was, as well as it was possible to be; and when I saw his genial face again at its brightest and best, I said to myself, he has been doing some other great kindness.  Not that it required much penetration to say that, because I knew that his being there at all was an act of kindness.

Supper was ready at the hotel, and when we were alone at table he said, "Full of curiosity, no doubt, little woman, to know why I have brought you here?"

"Well, guardian," said I, "without thinking myself a Fatima or you a Blue Beard, I am a little curious about it."