"Well said!" cried Mr. Jarndyce. "That's well said! She remains here, in her home with me. Love her, Rick, in your active life, no less than in her home when you revisit it, and all will go well. Otherwise, all will go ill. That's the end of my preaching. I think you and Ada had better take a walk."
Ada tenderly embraced him, and Richard heartily shook hands with him, and then the cousins went out of the room, looking back again directly, though, to say that they would wait for me.
The door stood open, and we both followed them with our eyes as they passed down the adjoining room, on which the sun was shining, and out at its farther end. Richard with his head bent, and her hand drawn through his arm, was talking to her very earnestly; and she looked up in his face, listening, and seemed to see nothing else. So young, so beautiful, so full of hope and promise, they went on lightly through the sunlight as their own happy thoughts might then be traversing the years to come and making them all years of brightness. So they passed away into the shadow and were gone. It was only a burst of light that had been so radiant. The room darkened as they went out, and the sun was clouded over.
"Am I right, Esther?" said my guardian when they were gone.
He was so good and wise to ask ME whether he was right!
"Rick may gain, out of this, the quality he wants. Wants, at the core of so much that is good!" said Mr. Jarndyce, shaking his head. "I have said nothing to Ada, Esther. She has her friend and counsellor always near." And he laid his hand lovingly upon my head.
I could not help showing that I was a little moved, though I did all I could to conceal it.
"Tut tut!" said he. "But we must take care, too, that our little woman's life is not all consumed in care for others."
"Care? My dear guardian, I believe I am the happiest creature in the world!"
"I believe so, too," said he. "But some one may find out what Esther never will--that the little woman is to be held in remembrance above all other people!"
I have omitted to mention in its place that there was some one else at the family dinner party. It was not a lady. It was a gentleman. It was a gentleman of a dark complexion--a young surgeon. He was rather reserved, but I thought him very sensible and agreeable. At least, Ada asked me if I did not, and I said yes.
Richard left us on the very next evening to begin his new career, and committed Ada to my charge with great love for her and great trust in me. It touched me then to reflect, and it touches me now, more nearly, to remember (having what I have to tell) how they both thought of me, even at that engrossing time. I was a part of all their plans, for the present and the future. I was to write Richard once a week, making my faithful report of Ada, who was to write to him every alternate day. I was to be informed, under his own hand, of all his labours and successes; I was to observe how resolute and persevering he would be; I was to be Ada's bridesmaid when they were married; I was to live with them afterwards; I was to keep all the keys of their house; I was to be made happy for ever and a day.
"And if the suit SHOULD make us rich, Esther--which it may, you know!" said Richard to crown all.
A shade crossed Ada's face.
"My dearest Ada," asked Richard, "why not?"
"It had better declare us poor at once," said Ada.
"Oh! I don't know about that," returned Richard, "but at all events, it won't declare anything at once. It hasn't declared anything in heaven knows how many years."
"Too true," said Ada.
"Yes, but," urged Richard, answering what her look suggested rather than her words, "the longer it goes on, dear cousin, the nearer it must be to a settlement one way or other. Now, is not that reasonable?"
"You know best, Richard. But I am afraid if we trust to it, it will make us unhappy."
"But, my Ada, we are not going to trust to it!" cried Richard gaily. "We know it better than to trust to it.