Книга Bleak House. Содержание - CHAPTER XLV In Trust
It was weak in me, I know, and I could have no reason for crying; but I dropped a tear upon her dear face, and another, and another.
Weaker than that, I took the withered flowers out and put them for a moment to her lips. I thought about her love for Richard, though, indeed, the flowers had nothing to do with that. Then I took them into my own room and burned them at the candle, and they were dust in an instant.
On entering the breakfast-room next morning, I found my guardian just as usual, quite as frank, as open, and free. There being not the least constraint in his manner, there was none (or I think there was none) in mine. I was with him several times in the course of the morning, in and out, when there was no one there, and I thought it not unlikely that he might speak to me about the letter, but he did not say a word.
So, on the next morning, and the next, and for at least a week, over which time Mr. Skimpole prolonged his stay. I expected, every day, that my guardian might speak to me about the letter, but he never did.
I thought then, growing uneasy, that I ought to write an answer. I tried over and over again in my own room at night, but I could not write an answer that at all began like a good answer, so I thought each night I would wait one more day. And I waited seven more days, and he never said a word.
At last, Mr. Skimpole having departed, we three were one afternoon going out for a ride; and I, being dressed before Ada and going down, came upon my guardian, with his back towards me, standing at the drawing-room window looking out.
He turned on my coming in and said, smiling, "Aye, it's you, little woman, is it?" and looked out again.
I had made up my mind to speak to him now. In short, I had come down on purpose. "Guardian," I said, rather hesitating and trembling, "when would you like to have the answer to the letter Charley came for?"
"When it's ready, my dear," he replied.
"I think it is ready," said I.
"Is Charley to bring it?" he asked pleasantly.
"No. I have brought it myself, guardian," I returned.
I put my two arms round his neck and kissed him, and he said was this the mistress of Bleak House, and I said yes; and it made no difference presently, and we all went out together, and I said nothing to my precious pet about it.
One morning when I had done jingling about with my baskets of keys, as my beauty and I were walking round and round the garden I happened to turn my eyes towards the house and saw a long thin shadow going in which looked like Mr. Vholes. Ada had been telling me only that morning of her hopes that Richard might exhaust his ardour in the Chancery suit by being so very earnest in it; and therefore, not to damp my dear girl's spirits, I said nothing about Mr. Vholes's shadow.
Presently came Charley, lightly winding among the bushes and tripping along the paths, as rosy and pretty as one of Flora's attendants instead of my maid, saying, "Oh, if you please, miss, would you step and speak to Mr. Jarndyce!"
It was one of Charley's peculiarities that whenever she was charged with a message she always began to deliver it as soon as she beheld, at any distance, the person for whom it was intended.
Therefore I saw Charley asking me in her usual form of words to "step and speak" to Mr. Jarndyce long before I heard her. And when I did hear her, she had said it so often that she was out of breath.
I told Ada I would make haste back and inquired of Charley as we went in whether there was not a gentleman with Mr. Jarndyce. To which Charley, whose grammar, I confess to my shame, never did any credit to my educational powers, replied, "Yes, miss. Him as come down in the country with Mr. Richard."
A more complete contrast than my guardian and Mr. Vholes I suppose there could not be. I found them looking at one another across a table, the one so open and the other so close, the one so broad and upright and the other so narrow and stooping, the one giving out what he had to say in such a rich ringing voice and the other keeping it in in such a cold-blooded, gasping, fish-like manner that I thought I never had seen two people so unmatched.
"You know Mr. Vholes, my dear," said my guardian. Not with the greatest urbanity, I must say.
Mr. Vholes rose, gloved and buttoned up as usual, and seated himself again, just as he had seated himself beside Richard in the gig. Not having Richard to look at, he looked straight before him.
"Mr. Vholes," said my guardian, eyeing his black figure as if he were a bird of ill omen, "has brought an ugly report of our most unfortunate Rick." Laying a marked emphasis on "most unfortunate" as if the words were rather descriptive of his connexion with Mr.
I sat down between them; Mr. Vholes remained immovable, except that he secretly picked at one of the red pimples on his yellow face with his black glove.
"And as Rick and you are happily good friends, I should like to know," said my guardian, "what you think, my dear. Would you be so good as to-as to speak up, Mr. Vholes?"
Doing anything but that, Mr. Vholes observed, "I have been saying that I have reason to know, Miss Summerson, as Mr. C.'s professional adviser, that Mr. C.'s circumstances are at the present moment in an embarrassed state. Not so much in point of amount as owing to the peculiar and pressing nature of liabilities Mr. C. has incurred and the means he has of liquidating or meeting the same. I have staved off many little matters for Mr. C., but there is a limit to staving off, and we have reached it. I have made some advances out of pocket to accommodate these unpleasantnesses, but I necessarily look to being repaid, for I do not pretend to be a man of capital, and I have a father to support in the Vale of Taunton, besides striving to realize some little independence for three dear girls at home. My apprehension is, Mr. C.'s circumstances being such, lest it should end in his obtaining leave to part with his commission, which at all events is desirable to be made known to his connexions."
Mr. Vholes, who had looked at me while speaking, here emerged into the silence he could hardly be said to have broken, so stifled was his tone, and looked before him again.
"Imagine the poor fellow without even his present resource," said my guardian to me. "Yet what can I do? You know him, Esther. He would never accept of help from me now. To offer it or hint at it would be to drive him to an extremity, if nothing else did."
Mr. Vholes hereupon addressed me again.
"What Mr. Jarndyce remarks, miss, is no doubt the case, and is the difficulty. I do not see that anything is to be done, I do not say that anything is to be done. Far from it. I merely come down here under the seal of confidence and mention it in order that everything may be openly carried on and that it may not be said afterwards that everything was not openly carried on. My wish is that everything should be openly carried on. I desire to leave a good name behind me. If I consulted merely my own interests with Mr. C., I should not be here. So insurmountable, as you must well know, would be his objections. This is not a professional attendance. This can he charged to nobody. I have no interest in it except as a member of society and a father-AND a son," said Mr.
Vholes, who had nearly forgotten that point.
It appeared to us that Mr. Vholes said neither more nor less than the truth in intimating that he sought to divide the responsibility, such as it was, of knowing Richard's situation. I could only suggest that I should go down to Deal, where Richard was then stationed, and see him, and try if it were possible to avert the worst. Without consulting Mr. Vholes on this point, I took my guardian aside to propose it, while Mr. Vholes gauntly stalked to the fire and warmed his funeral gloves.