Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 67

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The Close of Esther's Narrative

Full seven happy years I have been the mistress of Bleak House.  The few words that I have to add to what I have written are soon penned; then I and the unknown friend to whom I write will part for ever.  Not without much dear remembrance on my side.  Not without some, I hope, on his or hers.

They gave my darling into my arms, and through many weeks I never left her.  The little child who was to have done so much was born before the turf was planted on its father's grave.  It was a boy; and I, my husband, and my guardian gave him his father's name.

The help that my dear counted on did come to her, though it came, in the eternal wisdom, for another purpose.  Though to bless and restore his mother, not his father, was the errand of this baby, its power was mighty to do it.  When I saw the strength of the weak little hand and how its touch could heal my darling's heart and raised hope within her, I felt a new sense of the goodness and the tenderness of God.

They throve, and by degrees I saw my dear girl pass into my country garden and walk there with her infant in her arms.  I was married then.  I was the happiest of the happy.

It was at this time that my guardian joined us and asked Ada when she would come home.

"Both houses are your home, my dear," said he, "but the older Bleak House claims priority.  When you and my boy are strong enough to do it, come and take possession of your home."

Ada called him "her dearest cousin, John."  But he said, no, it must be guardian now.  He was her guardian henceforth, and the boy's; and he had an old association with the name.  So she called him guardian, and has called him guardian ever since.  The children know him by no other name.  I say the children; I have two little daughters.

It is difficult to believe that Charley (round-eyed still, and not at all grammatical) is married to a miller in our neighbourhood; yet so it is; and even now, looking up from my desk as I write early in the morning at my summer window, I see the very mill beginning to go round.  I hope the miller will not spoil Charley; but he is very fond of her, and Charley is rather vain of such a match, for he is well to do and was in great request.  So far as my small maid is concerned, I might suppose time to have stood for seven years as still as the mill did half an hour ago, since little Emma, Charley's sister, is exactly what Charley used to be.  As to Tom, Charley's brother, I am really afraid to say what he did at school in ciphering, but I think it was decimals.  He is apprenticed to the miller, whatever it was, and is a good bashful fellow, always falling in love with somebody and being ashamed of it.

Caddy Jellyby passed her very last holidays with us and was a dearer creature than ever, perpetually dancing in and out of the house with the children as if she had never given a dancing-lesson in her life.  Caddy keeps her own little carriage now instead of hiring one, and lives full two miles further westward than Newman Street.  She works very hard, her husband (an excellent one) being lame and able to do very little.  Still, she is more than contented and does all she has to do with all her heart.  Mr. Jellyby spends his evenings at her new house with his head against the wall as he used to do in her old one.  I have heard that Mrs. Jellyby was understood to suffer great mortification from her daughter's ignoble marriage and pursuits, but I hope she got over it in time.  She has been disappointed in Borrioboola-Gha, which turned out a failure in consequence of the king of Borrioboola wanting to sell everybody—who survived the climate—for rum, but she has taken up with the rights of women to sit in Parliament, and Caddy tells me it is a mission involving more correspondence than the old one.  I had almost forgotten Caddy's poor little girl.  She is not such a mite now, but she is deaf and dumb.  I believe there never was a better mother than Caddy, who learns, in her scanty intervals of leisure, innumerable deaf and dumb arts to soften the affliction of her child.

As if I were never to have done with Caddy, I am reminded here of Peepy and old Mr. Turveydrop.  Peepy is in the Custom House, and doing extremely well.  Old Mr. Turveydrop, very apoplectic, still exhibits his deportment about town, still enjoys himself in the old manner, is still believed in in the old way.  He is constant in his patronage of Peepy and is understood to have bequeathed him a favourite French clock in his dressing-room—which is not his property.