Книга Bleak House. Содержание - CHAPTER LXI A Discovery
I pointed out to my darling how this could scarcely be, because Mr.
Woodcourt had come to her cousin John's house and had known us all there, and because he had always liked Richard, and Richard had always liked him, and-and so forth.
"All true," said Ada, "but that he is such a devoted friend to us we owe to you."
I thought it best to let my dear girl have her way and to say no more about it. So I said as much. I said it lightly, because I felt her trembling.
"Esther, my dearest, I want to be a good wife, a very, very good wife indeed. You shall teach me."
I teach! I said no more, for I noticed the hand that was fluttering over the keys, and I knew that it was not I who ought to speak, that it was she who had something to say to me.
"When I married Richard I was not insensible to what was before him. I had been perfectly happy for a long time with you, and I had never known any trouble or anxiety, so loved and cared for, but I understood the danger he was in, dear Esther."
"I know, I know, my darling."
"When we were married I had some little hope that I might be able to convince him of his mistake, that he might come to regard it in a new way as my husband and not pursue it all the more desperately for my sake-as he does. But if I had not had that hope, I would have married him just the same, Esther. Just the same!"
In the momentary firmness of the hand that was never still-a firmness inspired by the utterance of these last words, and dying away with them-I saw the confirmation of her earnest tones.
"You are not to think, my dearest Esther, that I fail to see what you see and fear what you fear. No one can understand him better than I do. The greatest wisdom that ever lived in the world could scarcely know Richard better than my love does."
She spoke so modestly and softly and her trembling hand expressed such agitation as it moved to and fro upon the silent notes! My dear, dear girl!
"I see him at his worst every day. I watch him in his sleep. I know every change of his face. But when I married Richard I was quite determined, Esther, if heaven would help me, never to show him that I grieved for what he did and so to make him more unhappy.
I want him, when he comes home, to find no trouble in my face. I want him, when he looks at me, to see what he loved in me. I married him to do this, and this supports me."
I felt her trembling more. I waited for what was yet to come, and I now thought I began to know what it was.
"And something else supports me, Esther."
She stopped a minute. Stopped speaking only; her hand was still in motion.
"I look forward a little while, and I don't know what great aid may come to me. When Richard turns his eyes upon me then, there may be something lying on my breast more eloquent than I have been, with greater power than mine to show him his true course and win him back."
Her hand stopped now. She clasped me in her arms, and I clasped her in mine.
"If that little creature should fail too, Esther, I still look forward. I look forward a long while, through years and years, and think that then, when I am growing old, or when I am dead perhaps, a beautiful woman, his daughter, happily married, may be proud of him and a blessing to him. Or that a generous brave man, as handsome as he used to be, as hopeful, and far more happy, may walk in the sunshine with him, honouring his grey head and saying to himself, 'I thank God this is my father! Ruined by a fatal inheritance, and restored through me!'"
Oh, my sweet girl, what a heart was that which beat so fast against me!
"These hopes uphold me, my dear Esther, and I know they will.
Though sometimes even they depart from me before a dread that arises when I look at Richard."
I tried to cheer my darling, and asked her what it was. Sobbing and weeping, she replied, "That he may not live to see his child."
The days when I frequented that miserable corner which my dear girl brightened can never fade in my remembrance. I never see it, and I never wish to see it now; I have been there only once since, but in my memory there is a mournful glory shining on the place which will shine for ever.
Not a day passed without my going there, of course. At first I found Mr. Skimpole there, on two or three occasions, idly playing the piano and talking in his usual vivacious strain. Now, besides my very much mistrusting the probability of his being there without making Richard poorer, I felt as if there were something in his careless gaiety too inconsistent with what I knew of the depths of Ada's life. I clearly perceived, too, that Ada shared my feelings.
I therefore resolved, after much thinking of it, to make a private visit to Mr. Skimpole and try delicately to explain myself. My dear girl was the great consideration that made me bold.
I set off one morning, accompanied by Charley, for Somers Town. As I approached the house, I was strongly inclined to turn back, for I felt what a desperate attempt it was to make an impression on Mr.
Skimpole and how extremely likely it was that he would signally defeat me. However, I thought that being there, I would go through with it. I knocked with a trembling hand at Mr. Skimpole's door-literally with a hand, for the knocker was gone-and after a long parley gained admission from an Irishwoman, who was in the area when I knocked, breaking up the lid of a water-butt with a poker to light the fire with.
Mr. Skimpole, lying on the sofa in his room, playing the flute a little, was enchanted to see me. Now, who should receive me, he asked. Who would I prefer for mistress of the ceremonies? Would I have his Comedy daughter, his Beauty daughter, or his Sentiment daughter? Or would I have all the daughters at once in a perfect nosegay?
I replied, half defeated already, that I wished to speak to himself only if he would give me leave.
"My dear Miss Summerson, most joyfully! Of course," he said, bringing his chair nearer mine and breaking into his fascinating smile, "of course it's not business. Then it's pleasure!"
I said it certainly was not business that I came upon, but it was not quite a pleasant matter.
"Then, my dear Miss Summerson," said he with the frankest gaiety,
"don't allude to it. Why should you allude to anything that is NOT a pleasant matter? I never do. And you are a much pleasanter creature, in every point of view, than I. You are perfectly pleasant; I am imperfectly pleasant; then, if I never allude to an unpleasant matter, how much less should you! So that's disposed of, and we will talk of something else."
Although I was embarrassed, I took courage to intimate that I still wished to pursue the subject.
"I should think it a mistake," said Mr. Skimpole with his airy laugh, "if I thought Miss Summerson capable of making one. But I don't!"
"Mr. Skimpole," said I, raising my eyes to his, "I have so often heard you say that you are unacquainted with the common affairs of life-"
"Meaning our three banking-house friends, L, S, and who's the junior partner? D?" said Mr. Skimpole, brightly. "Not an idea of them!"
"-That perhaps," I went on, "you will excuse my boldness on that account. I think you ought most seriously to know that Richard is poorer than he was."
"Dear me!" said Mr. Skimpole. "So am I, they tell me."
"And in very embarrassed circumstances."
"Parallel case, exactly!" said Mr. Skimpole with a delighted countenance.
"This at present naturally causes Ada much secret anxiety, and as I think she is less anxious when no claims are made upon her by visitors, and as Richard has one uneasiness always heavy on his mind, it has occurred to me to take the liberty of saying that-if you would-not-"